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Asia Pacific: Regional international arbitration

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Arbitration remains a popular method of dispute resolution in the Asia Pacific region, with both the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the Chinese International Economic and Trade Commission (CIETAC) reporting an all-time high in the use of arbitration in the last two years. This was partly the result of an increase in disputes arising out of the oil and gas sector – the region’s share of global energy consumption is rising rapidly, with Japan, South Korea and China the three largest importers of liquefied natural gas in the world. Chinese and Korean building contractors are also bringing back a large number of construction disputes arising from major projects in other parts of the world.

Hong Kong and Singapore remain first choice as arbitration seats, although China’s economic bargaining power is drawing a number of matters to CIETAC, and India has made progress by setting up the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration, its first home-grown international arbitration centre. The neutrality of the venue, underpinned by political and legal stability and language capability (in particular English) remain the determining factors.

This section is intended to reflect, among other factors, law firms that demonstrate a sizeable number and spread of arbitration practitioners regionally; broad sector expertise such as the construction, energy and shipping areas; strengths in commercial arbitration, and investment treaty work; and a strong portfolio of high-end disputes.

Herbert Smith Freehills has an impressive international arbitration practice in the Asia Pacific region, which takes in six partners in Greater China, including Hong Kong-based global head of disputes Justin D'Agostino and Jessica Fei in Beijing. The practice is regularly instructed on some of the most high-value disputes in the region: in one example, Hong Kong-based partners May Tai and Simon Chapman handled a $5.5bn claim relating to a business acquisition. Besides major commercial disputes, the team is also proficient in assisting governments and investors on bilateral investment treaty claims; Singapore-based Alastair Henderson, who heads the international arbitration practice in South East Asia, is particularly active in this regard. Other key figures include Seoul-based Mike McClure, and Tokyo managing partner David Gilmore, who were both active on disputes arising from share purchase agreements, original equipment manufacturing contracts and construction contracts. Brenda Horrigan relocated from Shanghai to the firm’s Sydney office, and Elizabeth Poulos moved from Brisbane to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong office was further enhanced by the hire of financial services and energy specialist Kathryn Sanger, who joined from Clifford Chance.

Allen & Overy fields dedicated arbitration specialists in in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Perth, who work closely together on an array of matters for the firm’s multinational as well as Asia-headquartered clients. In an illustration of the firm’s experience handling investment treaty cases, Singapore-based Judith Gill QC and Hong Kong-based Matthew Hodgson are representing the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in a dispute with Tethyan Copper Company relating to mining rights to a gold and copper mining project in Balochistan. The energy sector is another strength: Greater China arbitration head Matthew Gearing QC and Frances van Eupen (who are both based in Hong Kong) continued to act for BG Exploration and Production India and Reliance Industries in an arbitration commenced against the Indian government related to production sharing contracts concerning the Panna and Mukta oil and gas fields located off the west coast of India. The Perth office was also active on energy-related arbitrations, with Mark van Brakel the main contact in this respect. Other names to note are Singapore-based Andrew Battisson, who sits as an arbitrator, and Shanghai-based Jane Jiang, who focuses on disputes concerning financial institutions.

Clifford Chance continued to handle a high volume of arbitrations for the firm’s sizeable private equity client base, and the team was also active on behalf of financial institutions, as well as mining companies pursuing claims under bilateral investment treaties. Key individuals in the Hong Kong office include Cameron Hassall, who leads the Greater China international arbitration practice, investment treaty specialist Romesh Weeramantry, and Thomas Walsh, who recently relocated from the firm’s South Korea office. Another name to note in Hong Kong is IP specialist Ling Ho, who regularly handles arbitrations arising from IP and has been active on various share purchase agreement disputes. In Singapore, energy and infrastructure specialist Paul Sandosham, Harpreet Singh Nehal SC and Nish Shetty represented clients in challenging arbitral awards, as well as on enforcement. Perth-based investment treaty dispute specialist Ben Luscombe and newly appointed partner Sam Luttrell handle various high-value disputes arising from the energy and resources sector. Kathryn Sanger joined Herbert Smith Freehills.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Asia Pacific international arbitration practice is headed by Nicholas Lingard, who splits his time between the firm’s Tokyo and Singapore offices. He represents governments and corporates with a focus on the energy sector, particularly where there is an overlap with investment treaty work; Lingard is acting for Eurus Energy Holdings Corporation in an International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Energy Charter Treaty claim against Spain relating to cuts to renewable energy payments. Other key figures in Singapore include Erin Miller Rankin, who splits her time between that office and Dubai and whose clients include Korean contractors Hyundai Engineering & Construction and POSCO Engineering & Construction; and Robert Kirkness, who continues to be highly active in investment treaty disputes. The Hong Kong-based John Choong specialises in China-related matters and is advising Beijing Urban Construction Group on arbitration proceedings under the Yemen-China bilateral investment treaty against the government of Yemen in connection with a dispute arising out of the construction of Sana’a International Airport.

Baker McKenzie’s arbitration group in Greater China is now led by Hong Kong-based Paul Teo, who joined from Hogan Lovells. Teo represents clients in disputes related to corporate and commercial transactions across a range of sectors including energy, mining and resources, infrastructure and construction, offshore and marine, and telecoms. Also in Hong Kong are Bryan Ng and Gary Seib, who are both active on cross-border arbitrations for the firm’s broad international client base. Global head of arbitration Leng Sun Chan, who is based in Singapore, has particular expertise in maritime disputes, but also handles a varied commercial caseload that encompasses disputes arising from breaches of share purchase agreements and construction contracts. Also in Singapore, Nandakumar Ponniya acts as global head of energy, mining and infrastructure disputes. In addition to fielding expertise in Hong Kong and Singapore, the firm is able to draw on specialists in Bangkok, Tokyo, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as mainland China, where Shanghai-based Simon Hui is a key figure.

At DLA Piper, Hong Kong-based shipping specialist Ernest Yang successfully represented Pacific Crest in a claim against the builders and sellers for non-delivery of two platform supply vessels. In another highlight Yang, whose expertise also encompasses disputes related to joint ventures, and offshore projects, successfully acted for General Nice Resources (Hong Kong) in an arbitration arising from the sale and purchase of iron ore fines contracts. Office managing partner Kevin Chan and Ashley Bell are also names to note in Hong Kong. The firm underwent some changes in 2017, with insurance specialist John Goulios now leading the arbitration practice in Singapore and the firm’s former head of arbitration in Asia, Yu-Jin Tay, departing for Mayer Brown JSM. Goulios is assisted by counsel Matthew Shaw, who focuses on disputes arising in Indonesia and the wider ASEAN region. The firm also has arbitration expertise in Seoul, where Daniel Lee advised on a number of construction disputes for Korean contractors, and in Thailand, where Chatchai Inthasuwan is the main contact.

Although arguably best known for its construction arbitration expertise, 2016 saw the practice at Hogan Lovells active on a range of commercial arbitrations across sectors such as energy, technology, food and financial services. Joint venture disputes seated in Hong Kong involving ventures outside of Hong Kong have been a particular focus for the firm’s offices in Greater China; in a notable highlight, the Shanghai-based Terence Wong handled a significant Hong Kong arbitration in the food sector. Timothy Hill, James Kwan and Damon So are the key figures in Hong Kong, while in Singapore Kent Phillips, who joined from Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, is singled out for his specialist knowledge of India and Indonesia related arbitrations in the energy sector. Also in Singapore, Asia dispute resolution head Maurice Burke is representing clients in various energy sector construction disputes. Key clients include Ariston, General Electric Company and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

King & Spalding LLP’s well-established Singapore offering is probably best known for handling large oil and gas disputes against states and state-owned entities (SOEs); the team is representing Shell in an ICSID arbitration against the Republic of the Philippines relating to the allocation of petroleum revenues earned by Shell under a petroleum services contract with the state. The practice is also present in investment treaty work outside the energy sector and is acting for Astro All Asia Networks and South Asia Entertainment Holdings in two United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitrations against the government of India alleging the mistreatment of Astro’s investment in the satellite television sector in India. In other highlights, John Savage and Emerson Holmes were active on various significant construction disputes for a major Korean contractor, while in Tokyo Chris Bailey handled a range of commercial and construction mandates. Singapore-based Wade Coriell leads in Asia and is deputy practice leader of the firm’s global arbitration team.

King & Wood Mallesons regularly represents Chinese SOEs such as China Guodian Corporation and Benxi Iron and Steel (Group) International Economic and Trade in major disputes. Beijing-based Huang Tao, who heads the group, is experienced in handling a range of commercial and maritime cases; in one highlight he successfully defended Benxi Iron and Steel (Group) International Economic and Trade before the Supreme People’s Court against an application to enforce an LCIA award. Other names to note are Shanghai-based Yu Feng, who joined from Dentons, and Zhang Shouzhi in Beijing. In Hong Kong, Paul Starr continues to handle a high volume of construction disputes primarily for contractors, while Edmund Wan was also busy in areas such as joint ventures and product recall. The practice also has expertise in Sydney, where Max Bonnell and Alex Baykitch focus on the mining, construction and infrastructure sectors.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s Asia Pacific practice underwent some reorganisation in 2016, with KC Lye taking over as department head in Singapore following the departure of Guy Spooner, and James Rogers relocating from Hong Kong to London. The practice has particular expertise in the energy and infrastructure sectors, where it continued to handle a large number of cases for a range of major Hong Kong, German, American and Japanese clients; Hong Kong-based infrastructure specialist Alfred Wu was particularly active in this respect. The team also assists clients such as Nestlé and Royal Brunei Airlines with arbitrations arising out of general commercial agreements, and has expertise in the financial services sector through Hong Kong-based Camille Jojo, who is experienced in complex finance disputes, including credit and security claims. Also based in Singapore, counsel Katie Chung is supporting a big-four oil major on contentious issues arising out of its downstream business. The firm also has arbitration expertise in Melbourne and Perth.

Seoul-headquartered Bae, Kim & Lee LLC enjoys a strong reputation for construction disputes, where it acts for most of the major Korean contractors including Samsung C&T, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, and POSCO Engineering & Construction. The practice is also developing its expertise in investment treaty work (on both state and investor sides); highlights included its ongoing representation of the Republic of Korea in the first investment treaty arbitration rought against the country, relating to Lone Star Funds’ disputed sale of its stake in Korea Exchange Bank and other Korean companies. Key figures include John Bang and Kap-You Kim, who jointly head the department, and construction specialists Matthew Christensen and Seung-Hyeon Kim.

Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP fields an arbitration team that is well versed in acting on the full range of cross-border disputes. Department head Andre Yeap and Paul Tan are regularly instructed by governments on investment treaty claims; in one example they are representing the Republic of the Philippines in a claim brought by Chevron and Shell centring on the companies’ liability to pay income taxes due to the government. Tan is also active in the construction space and represented a major Chinese construction company in proceedings to set aside a final award granted in relation to the construction of a power plant in Guatemala. The practice also has capability in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s Hong Kong office handles a large volume of multibillion-dollar arbitrations for a broad range of US and Asian clients. Key figures include Rory McAlpine, who is advising on a number of media and technology related disputes, and Chiann Bao, former secretary general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, who joined the firm in September 2016.

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