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Hong Kong > Capital markets > Debt > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Capital markets (debt)
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Next generation lawyers

  1. 1
    • Mark Chan - Clifford Chance
    • Julie Song - Allen & Overy
    • Julia Zhu - Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

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Clifford Chance has an outstanding track record in novel and landmark debt capital markets transactions, which was illustrated in 2016 when Asia Pacific capital markets practice head Connie Heng led a team, including Alexander Lloyd, and senior associates Mark Chan and Song Yue, in the advice to the joint lead managers on the Bank of China’s $3.03bn green bonds issuance; this matter represented the first time that two offshore branches of a PRC-based financial institution have issued green bonds. Another highly significant deal involved Heng and others acting for the joint lead managers in Bank of China’s $500m green covered bonds issuance, which was the first-ever sale of such bonds by a Chinese bank. Elsewhere, Fang Liu, Angela Chan were among the advisers to China Minsheng Bank on the circa $1.4bn issuance of non-cumulative perpetual offshore preference shares. Another highlight saw the team assist the underwriters with China Yangtze Power’s dual-currency exchangeable bond issue. The team also acts for Chinese state-owned and privately owned enterprises, as well as foreign companies. In 2017, David Tsai made partner, while Chan and Corey Zhang were promoted to consultants. Matthew Fairclough, Richard Lee and James Booth are other recommended individuals in the team.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP reputation as a market leader is underscored by its particularly strong position in the high-yield arena; at the time of writing, it had handled more than 60 high-yield deals since January 2016. Its strengths in this space are illustrated by its spread of work across the Chinese real estate, energy and utilities sectors, among others. Among the particularly complex and landmark high-yield offerings, William Barron and Gerhard Radtke acted for HT Global as the issuer in its innovative sponsor-backed high-yield offering. Another highlight involved acting for the managers in the $6.6bn concurrent exchange offer and new issue for China Evergrande. The firm also garners praise for its high-end investment grade work, where it acts for Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), local government financing vehicles (LGFVs), financial institutions and issuers, among other clients. Paul Chow advised China Reinsurance (Group) Corporation on the $800m notes issuance by its subsidiary China Reinsurance Finance Corporation Limited. James Lin acted for the underwriters in the $3bn Rule 144A and Regulation S notes offering by Sinopec Group Overseas Development (a wholly owned subsidiary of China Petrochemical Corporation). Other areas of expertise include hybrid and equity-linked securities. Counsel Margie Chan is also recommended.

Linklaters is ‘one of the top English law firms’ in the debt capital markets space, which attracts praise for its ‘great attention to detail and keenness to drive transactions’. The team has developed a first-class reputation in landmark debt, liability management and regulatory capital transactions, acting for issuers and corporates in securities matters in China and across the Asia Pacific. US securities law expert Patrick Sheil who relocated to the Hong Kong office from London, adds to the firm’s high-yield debt expertise. Michael Ng and William Liu acted for the Bank of China (London branch) in the establishment of its $5bn China covered note programme and $500m issuance of green covered notes on the London Stock Exchange; this transaction represented the first international notes issuance by a Chinese entity that is secured by onshore debt securities assets. The ‘highly reliable’ Hwang Hwa Sim assisted China Yangtze Power Company with its $300m and €200m concurrent dual-currency exchangeable bonds issuance; this was the first dual-currency exchangeable bonds issuance in the international capital markets. Sim’s other experience includes issuances of panda bonds and green bonds. Liu, recently promoted partner Iris Leung and Terence Lau acted for Chinese state-owned asset management company China Cinda Asset Management in its $3.2bn non-cumulative perpetual offshore preference shares issuance. Andrew Malcolm and Jonathan Horan are also recommended.

Allen & Overy’s ‘very responsive and reliable’ team is lauded for its ‘great business acumen and client management skills’. One of its main areas of activity has been in the Indian debt capital markets arena where, under the stewardship of Amit Singh, it is ‘particularly strong’ (including in relation to Indian green bonds and masala bonds). In 2016, Singh and others assisted Axis Bank, HSBC, MUFG and Standard Chartered Bank as the joint lead managers in the INR20bn green masala bond issue by India’s largest power utility company NTPC. Indonesia has been another sweet spot of activity for the firm. Elsewhere, the firm has strong track record in the panda bonds market; Agnes Tsang was part of a cross-office team, which acted for the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Poland in its issue of RMB3bn panda bonds. Tsang also worked with John Lee to assist China Construction Bank (Asia) – a major subsidiary of China Construction Bank – with its RMB2bn panda bonds issuance. On the sovereign bonds front, Singh and others acted for The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in its $1.5bn dual tranche sovereign bond issuance. Michele Discepola is ‘a joy to work with’, and John Lee’s diverse practice covers convertible and exchangeable bonds, dim sum bonds and investment grade bonds, among other offerings. In recent developments, Stephen Miller relocated from the London office to Hong Kong to head up the Asia Pacific capital markets practice. In addition, New York and Hong Kong-qualified lawyer Alex Tao joined from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Shearman & Sterling’s level of experience in high-yield debt and a broad spectrum of investment grade transactions sees it generate a healthy pipeline of work from Chinese state-owned entities, financial institutions and corporate issuers. In 2016, Alan Yeung was part of a cross-office team that acted as US law counsel to ANZ, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan as the underwriters in the $500m bond offering by UPL Corporation. In another highlight, Yeung, counsel Hae-Ran Song and others acted as US law counsel to the arrangers and dealers in the establishment by PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara of a $2bn medium-term note (MTN) programme and drawdown. In the high-yield arena, highlights included acting as US law counsel to the underwriters in Yida China’s $300m offering, and acting as US and Hong Kong law counsel to Future Land Development Holdings as the issuer in its $350m offering.

Sidley Austin is among the most active participants in the market for issuer-side China high-yield transactions, and has particularly strong client relationships with PRC real estate developers, with the firm recently undertaking mandates for clients such as Guangzhou R&F Properties and Fantasia Holdings, among others. In a groundbreaking highlight, Carrie Li led a team, which included Constance Choy and counsel Robert Mason, in the advice to Modern Land (China) on a $350m high-yield Regulation S green bonds offering, representing the first-ever green bonds offering by a PRC real estate developer. Outside of real estate, Renee Xiong was the lead adviser to China Oil and Gas Group in its $350m Regulation S high-yield bond issue. The team also has an excellent reputation in investment grade transactions, where it acts for clients such as The Export-Import Bank of China and China Orient Asset Management (International), and which was demonstrated when Li, senior associate Oliver Zhong and others acted for the joint lead managers in the debut $500m Regulation S bond offering by Caiyun International Investment. Choy heads up the practice with Timothy Li and Matthew Sheridan, who divides his time between Hong Kong and Singapore.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s English, US and Hong Kong Law capabilities give its practice an edge in cross-border securities offerings, where it acts for Asian (including Chinese) and US companies, financial intermediaries and global investment banks, among other clients. In 2016, Julie Gao and Jonathan Stone were part of a cross-office team, which advised Ctrip.com International on its $2.6bn concurrent offering of American depositary shares and convertible senior notes. Gao and Stone also acted for JD.com in its $1bn dual-tranche bond offering. Another notable highlight involved Edward Lam, Jonathan Stone and ‘very efficient’ associate Vincent Sze acting for Merrill Lynch International as initial purchaser in a $400m Regulation S high-yield bond offering by 361 Degrees International. Lam has ‘what you would typically expect from a Skadden lawyer – strong technical skills, good commercial sense, and most importantly, he knows that being overly conservative and speaking a lot of legalese won’t help the transaction’.

Ashurst’s high-calibre team features prominently in some of the most sophisticated and high-end cross-border debt capital markets transactions in the market. The group’s extensive expertise spans a multitude of products, such as corporate bonds (Regulation S and 144A), high-yield bonds, convertible and exchangeable bonds, liability management, covered bonds and equity-linked notes, among others. In their role as international counsel, Jini Lee and others recently acted for HeSteel Hong Kong Co. and also its guarantor in HeSteel’s $500m debut international bond issuance. In 2016, Lee and Nigel Pridmore advised the joint bookrunners on Maybank’s issue of fixed-rate subordinated notes, a matter which represented the first-ever Basel III-compliant tier two securities to be issued by a Malaysian bank. Global head of high-yield Anna-Marie Slot acted for the joint bookrunners and lead managers in Greenko Investment Company’s $500m high-yield green bond issuance, which was the first ever in India. In another standout highlight, Slot, Stuart Rubin and senior associate Li Jiang advised Studio City Company on its $1.2bn high-yield offering. Slot, Lee and Pridmore jointly head the practice, along with Peter Kwon; all four partners collectively have 70 years of debt capital markets experience.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s clients are drawn to the firm’s extensive coverage of the Greater China and pan-Asian markets, its breadth and depth of expertise across a variety of products and strong track record in landmark transactions. The firm particularly showcases its capabilities in novel and complex high-yield offerings, corporate hybrid deals and investment-grade CNY and dollar-bond issuances. In 2016, team head Andrew Heathcote and Bing Guan acted as Hong Kong counsel to Television Broadcasts in its debut $500m senior guaranteed notes issuance. Heathcote and counsel James Hyre acted as issuer’s counsel to Li & Fung in the establishment of a $2bn MTN and perpetual securities programme. Another notable individual is David Ludwick, who worked with Hyre to assist BOC Aviation with a $500m notes issuance under its $5bn global MTN programme. BNP Paribas, HSBC and Tus Holdings are among other clients of the practice. Calvin Lai and senior associate Julia Zhu are recommended, as is recently promoted counsel Constance Chou.

King & Wood Mallesonsalways provides suitable advice based on what is happening in the market’. One of the standout practitioners in the team is ‘role model’ Christine Chen, who ‘demonstrates excellent execution capabilities in complex transactions’. A hallmark of the firm is its ability to provide Hong Kong, PRC, US and English law advice in Hong Kong, giving it an excellent platform in domestic and cross-border transactions. The team has a particularly sizeable market share of LGFV offerings, with it handling 16 out of 43 deals in the market in 2016. The year was also marked by the firm featuring prominently in a number of landmark transactions; Richard Mazzochi, Minny Siu and Chen acted for The World Bank in the issue of the first Special Drawing Rights (SDR) denominated bond in the Chinese inter-bank bond market. The firm also acted as international and PRC counsel for the joint lead managers in the debut offering of green bonds by Zhejiang Geely, representing the Chinese auto industry’s first offshore bond issuance. In another matter, Hao Zhou and others assisted Xinhu Zhongbao as the issuer with the US and PRC law aspects of its $700m high-yield bond offering; this was the largest debut issuance by a PRC company since January 2013. The practice was strengthened at senior associate level in 2016 by the arrivals of David Liao (‘he always recommends suitable products’) and Annie Shen (she is ‘really good at working with people, as well as dealing with legal rules’) from Linklaters and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP respectively.

Latham & Watkins LLP is a leading player in the investment grade market, where it benefits from excellent relationships with Chinese SOEs and LGFVs. Ji Liu recently assisted ChemChina with its $600m perpetual capital securities offering, and worked with James Burnett to advise China Southern Power Grid Co. as US counsel on its $1.5bn senior guaranteed notes offering. On the underwriter side, Liu was the lead adviser to Credit Suisse and Nomura on the $500m bond offering by Want Want China Finance. Elsewhere, the team is extremely active in the high-yield debt space, as was illustrated by it acting for Xinjiang Guanghui Industry Investment Group in its $300m offering, and also when it assisted the underwriters with the $200m issuance by Reward International Investment. Other areas of expertise in the diverse practice include convertible bonds, exchange offers and private placements, as well as the establishment of (and updates to) global MTN programmes and European MTN programmes. Terris Tang rejoined the firm as counsel from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in December 2016, following the latter’s closure of its Hong Kong office. Another counsel Simon Hawkins joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in June 2017. Benjamin Carale, Posit Laohaphan and counsel Louis Rabinowitz are among other active practitioners in the team.

Mayer Brown JSM has an impressive record of success in all types of debt offerings, and is particularly well known in the high-yield sphere, where its team has a wealth of experience of complex Asian and global transactions. In 2016, a particularly high-profile matter involved Jason Elder, Thomas Kollar and others acting for The Ministry of Finance of the government of Mongolia in its $500m high-yield sovereign issuance. Kollar also worked with Jeckle Chiu and Billy Au to advise Jiayuan International Group as the issuer on its $100m high-yield bond offering. Beyond high-yield work, the team covers an extensive range of other matters, such as investment grade, hybrid securities and structured debt transactions. Another sweet spot of the practice is in the corporate trust and agency sphere, where the team assists trustees and agents with liability management exercises, bond issuances and restructurings, among other matters. Phill Smith retired from private practice.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy’s practice has a multi-jurisdictional flavour, which has been reflected by the firm recently handling mandates with a nexus to (or acting for clients based in) countries throughout the Asia Pacific region. James Grandolfo and senior associate Kurtis Sherwood acted for Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan as dealer managers and initial purchasers in a $600m sovereign bond exchange offer and new issuance by the government of Mongolia. Grandolfo was also a key adviser to Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank in a 144A/Regulation S1.5bn sovereign bond offering by the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The Philippines is a notable hotbed of activity for the firm; Grandolfo, Asian counsel Paul Pery, and others acted for Deutsche Bank as dealer manager in the liability management exercise of Energy Development Corporation, the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines. US and Hong Kong-qualified lawyer David Kuo handles a wide range of matters, including high-yield and investment grade offerings, as well as convertibles transactions.

Simmons & Simmons LLP is a first port of call for clients in many of their most high-profile and complex debt capital markets mandates, which includes offerings of convertible/exchangeable (and other equity-linked) bonds and high-yield bonds, and MTN programmes. Jay Lee has been at the forefront of the development of RMB Bonds in Hong Kong since their inception. US-qualified lawyer David Neuville, who has been a fixture of the Hong Kong market for more than 20 years, has vast experience of acting for issuers and underwriters in cross-border transactions across Asia. The firm’s broad base of clients includes names such as Bank of China, Citi, ICBC and Standard Chartered Bank. In addition, it also acts for large companies, asset management firms and funds. Christine Zhao departed for an in-house role at Bank of China.

Slaughter and May acts for corporate issuers and investment banks in a wide range of matters, including issues of bonds, warrants and convertibles. Peter Lake and Clara Choi recently advised Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) on its issue of $800m tier two notes. Benita Yu is assisting Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation with its $450m zero coupon convertible bonds issue. Its team also has expertise in debt programmes; Roger Cheng, who made partner in 2016, advised Wing Tai Properties on the annual update of the $1bn MTN programme of its subsidiary Wing Tai Properties (Finance), and also assisted MTR Corporation and MTR Corporation (C.I.) with the annual update of their $4bn MTN programme. Lisa Chung is another key individual in the team.

White & Case’s international footprint makes its well placed to advise Asia-based and western issuers on the full spectrum of cross-border transactions. The firm also has a significant number of key bank clients; Jessica Zhou, who is ‘very detail-oriented and efficient’, and counsel Stephen Howard were among the members of a cross-office team, which advised Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, ANZ and BOC International on the $1.2bn Rule 144A/Regulation S high-yield issuance by Studio City Company in 2016. In an issuer-side mandate, Zhou was a key adviser to China Water Affairs on its $300m Regulation S debut bond offering. Another area of strength for the firm is in real estate related matters; Baldwin Cheng and Zhou were among the advisers to China Cinda (HK) Asset Management Company and PAG on a private placement of $100m senior secured notes. Catherine Tsang, along with Zhou and Cheng, assisted CDBI Treasure I (as issuer), China Development Bank International Holdings (as guarantor) and China Development Bank Capital Corporation (as keepwell and EIPU provider) with the establishment of a $500m MTN programme and subsequent drawdown

Baker McKenzie handles both issuer and underwriter-side mandates, giving its team a broad perspective in bonds/notes/commercial paper issuances, Regulation 144A offerings and MTN programmes. Dorothea Koo acted for Yuexiu Property Company in the RMB8bn corporate bond issuance by a subsidiary of the client to qualified investors in the PRC. Edmund Chan and Christine Lee are other names to note in Hong Kong. Beijing-based Jackie Lo succeeded Elsa Chan as practice head of the Greater China team, following Chan’s retirement from private practice. Edwin Li has also left the firm.

Deacons handled a notable share of issuer-side landmark transactions in 2016; Kevin Tong and senior associate Icarus Yuen acted for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in the issuance of the first Silver bond for subscription by Hong Kong residents aged 65 and above. Another highlight involved Tong, Yuen and senior associate Christine Li advising Chinese state-owned construction company Xi’an Municipal Infrastructure Construction Investment Group on its $500m offshore bond issuance, representing the first offshore issuance by an SOE based in Xi’an. Tong and others also assisted Guangxi Communications Investment Group with being the first SOE in Guangxi Province to undertake an offshore bond issuance. Underwriter-side highlights included advising the joint lead managers on the issuance of bonds by CALC Bond 1, CALC Bond 2 and CALC Bond 3. Tong and others also acted for the issuing and lodging agent, as well as the joint lead managers in the issuance of RMB28bn sovereign bonds in two tranches by the PRC Ministry of Finance.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ debt capital markets practice is led by William Ku, who handles a comprehensive range of debt and equity-linked transactions for issuers, underwriters and trustees. Ku recently acted for Qinghai Provincial Investment Group on its landmark $300m debut issue of Regulation S bonds, which were listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; this matter was the first time an LGFV from Qinghai Province had issued offshore bonds. In 2016, Ku acted for Citicorp International as trustee and agent in the issue of $300m Regulation S exchangeable bonds by CP Foods Holdings. Other clients of the practice include Deutsche Bank, The Bank of New York Mellon and China Metal Resources Utilization.

Paul Hastings LLP is particularly active in high-yield transactions in the real estate sector, where it has an outstanding track record acting for PRC-based property developers. Raymond Li, Vivian Lam and recently promoted of counsel James Ma acted for Yuzhou Properties in its $250m senior notes issuance in 2016. Another highlight saw the team advising Mingfa Group on its issuance of guaranteed bonds to Haitong International Securities Company. The practice also generates a healthy mix of investment grade offerings; Lam and Ma assisted China Everbright with its two-tranche RMB 12.8bn panda bonds issuance. Although the firm is known for acting for issuers in the debt capital markets space, and this remains the core focus of the work, it also generates mandates from underwriters.

At Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (Hong Kong), Freeman Chan and counsel Robert Williams acted for Lenovo Group in a $500m Regulation S notes offering, and concurrently, handled a $850m Regulation S issuance of perpetual securities for Lenovo Perpetual Securities. The team also advises on convertible bond offerings and high-yield issuances, among other matters.

DLA Piper’s team has expertise in a broad cross-section of debt products, including high-yield debt, investment grade securities and RMB dim sum bonds. It is also knowledgeable about various types of equity-linked products, including convertible bonds and exchangeable bonds. Melody He-Chen, who is the lead partner in the team, worked with of counsel Janny Tai to advise Chiho Environmental Group as the issuer on a $200m notes offering. Yue Xue Securities and China ZhengTong Auto Services Holdings are other key clients.

K&L Gates’ multifaceted practice covers high-yield and investment grade transactions, sovereign bond issuances, hybrid securities, MTN programmes and liability management transactions, among many other areas. Philip Hyde and Neil Campbell lead the team, which acts for issuers, underwriters and sponsors. DB Trustees (Hong Kong) and Citicorp International are among the key clients.

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