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  1. Restructuring and insolvency
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DLA Piper’s three-partner team ‘provides highly pertinent and commercial advice’ to a broad range of stakeholders, particularly in relation to multi-jurisdictional mandates where it is able to work alongside practitioners across the firm’s wide-ranging network of global offices. Team head Mark Fairbairn has an excellent reputation on behalf of bondholders and is advising an ad hoc bondholder group on Hong Kong and New York law issues associated with the restructuring of China Shanshui Cement. The ‘very trustworthyJonathan Leitch excels at handling complex creditor-side work and is currently acting for the lenders (including Rabobank and Standard Chartered Bank) regarding their exposures in the Pacific Andes/China Fisheries Group; notably the mandate has to date involved court and insolvency proceedings in nine separate jurisdictions and has involved significant input from across the firm’s global network. The ‘very strong’ Ashley Bell has a focus on contentious insolvency matters.

The ‘outstanding’ three-partner team at Kirkland & Ellis has an ‘excellent reputation’ in the Asian market on behalf of a varied array of stakeholders including bondholders, banks and corporates, and is well placed to handle work involving high-yield bonds and other more complex capital structures by virtue of its US heritage. ‘Increasingly prominent’ on big-ticket pan-Asian debtor mandates, some of which is derived from the firm’s impressive roster of private equity clients, ‘superb’ team head Neil McDonald is representing UTAC Holdings on the $1.12bn restructuring of notes issued by its subsidiary Global A&T Electronics. McDonald’s diverse caseload also includes significant creditor mandates such as his ongoing role for the ad hoc committee of bondholders on the $424m restructuring of the convertible bonds issued by Paladin Energy. Damien Coles has deep experience advising on Indonesian restructurings including his high-profile involvement for an ad hoc group of senior noteholders of Bumi Resources in connection with a restructuring through Indonesian suspension of payment proceedings. Kelly Naphtali is recommended for contentious insolvency matters.

With a core restructuring and insolvency team of three partners in Hong Kong, which frequently works alongside practitioners in mainland China and Vietnam, as well as Europe and the US, Mayer Brown JSM excels at complex cross-border mandates for banks, bondholders, bond trustees and debtors. John Marsden’s ‘extensive experience’, is reflected in his position as Asia practice leader. In a deal that involved considerable input from the firm’s New York office, particularly in relation to Chapter 11 recovery options, Marsden advised Malayan Banking Berhad, one of the principal bank creditors of the Pacific Andes Group, regarding its $1.5bn debt restructuring. ‘Very smart operator’ Tom Pugh was also involved in the aforementioned matter and again worked alongside Marsden to act for the major offshore bilateral lenders as creditors of Kaisa Group Holdings on its $4bn restructuring. The ‘very brightRichard Tollan is recommended for insolvency litigation.

An ‘established player in the Hong Kong market’, Tanner De Witt leverages strong ties with professional services firms including PwC and FTI Consulting and also generates a significant amount of referral work from international law firms to advise on the Hong Kong aspects of cross-border mandates. Particularly recommended at the contentious end of the market, the two-partner team is active across a range of industry sectors and across the spectrum of insolvency-related litigation including acting in winding-up proceedings, appointments of provisional liquidators, claims against directors, claims against auditors, and fraud and asset tracing. The ‘very experiencedRobin Darton is advising the liquidators of the Hong Kong subsidiary of Singaporean conglomerate Dragon Technology Distribution on the validity of and interplay between various receivables financing arrangements and other security arrangements established between the debtor and numerous lenders. Darton also continues to act for the liquidators of the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of OW Bunker in its high-profile collapse. The ‘excellentIan De Witt is also recommended, while at an associate level Sunny Hathiramani has a burgeoning reputation and is frequently involved in many of the highest-profile matters handled by the team.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP excels at work for Asian and international hedge funds as creditors in pan-Asian restructurings. Leveraging the firm’s overarching energy and commodities sector expertise, the team has been well placed to handle work for bondholders as a result of the general malaise in these industries. US-qualified Mark Fucci is an excellent resource for clients (particularly in light of the increased number of mandates involving New York-law governed bonds) and, alongside the ‘superbNaomi Moore, is acting for an ad hoc group of holders of $375m of convertible bonds (governed by New York law) as creditors of Indonesian coal company Bumi Resources. In a matter that involved restructuring via concurrent schemes of arrangement in Hong Kong and the BVI, as well as a US Chapter 15 process, Fucci and Moore also advised a steering committee of holders of $309m of bonds issued by Winsway Enterprises Holdings on its restructuring.

While Hogan Lovells has fewer insolvency and restructuring practitioners on the ground in Hong Kong than the top-ranked firms (particularly in light of Stuart Tait’s recent relocation to the Manchester (UK) office of Gateley Plc), the team still performs well in the Asia Pacific region as a result of its closely coordinated approach which regularly sees it work alongside the Singapore office in particular, where Hong Kong-qualified Shaun Langhorne is a particularly useful resource on restructuring matters. The ‘superb’ Hong Kong-based Chris Dobby is a ‘very high-profile insolvency litigator’, and by virtue of his accreditation as one of the few solicitor advocates with higher rights of audience he has the capability of appearing in Hong Kong’s higher courts. Dobby continues to act for the court-appointed liquidators of some of Hong Kong’s highest-profile corporate collapses including his long-running role for the liquidators of Akai on its liquidation and the on-going action against its former chairman. Senior associates Karen Chan and Faye Griffiths are also recommended for insolvency litigation and corporate restructuring respectively. Clients also include FTI Consulting, KPMG and Standard Chartered Bank.

Latham & Watkins LLP is particularly well suited to handling bondholder matters involving New York-law governed high-yield bonds, where the firm is able to leverage expertise from its US offices in addition to US-qualified partner Josef Athanas in situ in the Hong Kong office. Athanas is also able to provide Chapter 11 advice to clients and recently worked alongside colleagues from several US offices on behalf of troubled oil and gas company Stone Energy Corporation on its $1.4bn restructuring. The ‘very experienced and accomplishedHoward Lam is particularly noted for his restructuring/insolvency work involving PRC entities; he recently advised a steering committee of bondholders on the default of redeeming bonds issued by China City Construction. Simon Powell regularly handles the contentious elements of insolvency issues, should they arise, as part of his broad commercial litigation practice. While he is best known for his leveraged finance expertise, Gary Hamp’s broad financing know-how also encompasses restructuring work and distressed investments. Senior associate Sally Mui is noted for her work on China-related restructuring matters. Other clients include PwC, KPMG and Rolta India.

The ‘very commercial’ team at Ropes & Gray LLP has ‘deep market penetration’ on behalf of bondholders in Asia Pacific. ‘Outstanding’ team head Daniel Anderson ‘knows a lot about the operation of bonds’ and regularly acts for funds in the most significant regional mandates. Having formerly been in-house within Citadel’s special situations group, Anderson ‘knows the balance that can help facilitate deals’; he is advising the ad hoc committee of bondholders on the restructuring of senior notes of Mongolian Mining Corporation. Although it remains best known for its funds offering, the team has also begun to generate an increasing volume of debtor mandates as best exemplified by its work for the liquidators of LDK Solar regarding its high-profile restructuring (where it initially worked for the ad hoc committee of bondholders). Senior associate Kathleen Berkeley is also recommended.

Allen & Overy’s sweet-spot lays in its ability to handle major multi-jurisdictional mandates as a result of a significant depth of expertise in Asia (including in Indonesia, Singapore and China), as well as the UK and US. The ‘extremely talented and personable’ team head Richard Woodworth is ‘well liked in the industry’, and is leading the firm’s work for ING and the lenders as creditors to OW Bunker on the Asian aspects of its high-profile global restructuring. Woodworth also advised China Development Bank as one of the key creditors of Suntech Power Group. Of counsel Emily Tillett has a strong reputation for contentious insolvency matters.

Comprised of a multi-disciplinary group of practitioners from across the firm’s banking and finance, and dispute resolution groups, Baker McKenzie has significant Greater China resources spanning Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, and is consequently regularly involved in corporate restructuring and formal insolvency matters in the region on behalf of a varied mix of stakeholders including IPs, banks, corporates and funds. Kwun-Yee Cheung is regularly involved in the most significant mandates handled by the team, and as well as acting for a global footwear and apparel company on cross-border insolvency issues, also continues to represent the official receiver and special managers of the Bank of Credit and Commerce Hong Kong on all aspects of its complex liquidation.

Despite the recent return to London of leading restructuring lawyer Mark Hyde, Clifford Chance continues to handle a significant amount of high-profile cross-border mandates for a raft of different stakeholders. Reenergised, particularly on the funds side, since the ‘very accomplished’ Scott Bache’s return to the Hong Kong market in October 2015, the team is ‘increasingly visible on high-profile bondholder mandates’ and also continues to handle an array of bank side mandates. Bache recently advised the banking syndicate (including BNP Paribas) in relation to the successful restructuring of Mongolian Mining Corporation. Other highlights included the team’s role, alongside lawyers from the New York office, for liquidators of certain entities of the Pacific Andes group including with respect to ongoing US bankruptcy proceedings of other entities within the group. Consultant Joanna Charter is also recommended.

Deacons handles contentious and non-contentious work for office holders and financial creditors, as well as in the context of referral work from international law firms. Richard Hudson has an ‘excellent reputation’ in the market for contentious insolvency matters, both on the personal insolvency front as well as corporate insolvencies. Hudson is advising a US retail conglomerate on complex issues arising from a dispute with the provisional liquidators of one of its manufacturers. On the non-contentious front, Philip Gilligan regularly handles the Hong Kong aspects of international restructuring work and also has experience of handling debt trading and non-performing loan transactions.

Headed by ‘the very commercial and detail-oriented’ David Kidd, Linklaters provides ‘intellectually robust and well-thought-out advice’ to a broad range of stakeholders – on the creditor and debtor side – in both out-of-court restructurings and insolvency litigation in the PRC and across the wider region. Melvin Sng is ‘technically very strong’ at handling contentious insolvency matters and is a key member of the team that includes managing associate Matthew Worth, who specialises in the restructuring of event-driven financings.

Aided by a robust complementary corporate finance practice in the region, Sidley Austin’s Hong Kong corporate restructuring team provides a ‘strong and nuanced service’ to a range of stakeholders including funds, lenders, investors and corporates. Recent highlights include advising China Evergrande Group on its capital restructuring. A complex matter, the restructuring included achieving consent solicitation on its existing high-yield bonds to amend covenants allowing a greater degree of flexibility, as well as initiating a new combined issuance of $2.5bn of high-yield notes, the proceeds of which were used to repay existing indebtedness. Other recent highlights included the team’s work (alongside lawyers in London and New York) for LDK Solar on its $700m restructuring; believed to be the first judicially approved, multi-jurisdictional debt restructuring of its kind for a Chinese enterprise. The team is also noted for its ‘excellent work advising Chinese corporates acquiring distressed assets’. Thomas Albrecht and Alex Rovira are recommended. Other clients include Goldman Sachs, Apollo Global Management and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

White & Case provides a ‘responsive and very professional service’ to many different stakeholders, although it remains ‘best known for its bank-side representations’. For example, the team recently advised China Minsheng Banking Corp on the restructuring of its $430m loan facility to Grande Cache Coal. Team head Baldwin Cheng was involved in the aforementioned matter and has vast experience acting for both banks and corporates on non-contentious restructuring matters in Hong Kong and across Asia. Recently promoted partner Melody Chan is noted for her contentious insolvency expertise, and the ‘excellent’ Damien Whitehead excels at handling transactional and contentious matters, and also benefits from a significant degree of commerciality gleaned from his years spent in-house at ANZ Bank.

At Eversheds Sutherland, team head Kingsley Ong is particularly accomplished at handling restructurings and insolvencies that require the unwinding of complex financial instruments by dint of his structured finance and derivatives expertise. Ong continues to act for KPMG in its role as Hong Kong liquidators of derivatives brokerage MF Global and investment bank Lehman Brothers on their respective high-profile and long-running insolvencies – both of which require specialist expertise in restructuring, derivatives and structured finance transactions, given the nature of their businesses. Consultant Eugene Yeung ‘knows the insolvency market very well’ and is a significant boost to the team following his arrival in February 2017 from Mayer Brown JSM.

Although small in comparison to other ranked firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s one-partner team provides advice to IPs, banks, corporates and bondholders on domestic work as well as forming part of larger multi-office team on multi-jurisdictional projects. Look Chan Ho is the primary restructuring contact in the team and recently worked alongside the London office to provide vital input on Asia Pacific issues relating to the firm’s work for Hanjin Shipping on its global restructuring options and negotiations with shipowners. Ho is also acting for China City Construction Holding Group Company on its dim sum bond default.

Leading local litigation firm Gall has a focus on contentious insolvency matters, and as well as receiving direct instructions from local IPs, is also regularly referred work by overseas law firms. The ‘very knowledgeableChristopher Wong handles insolvency disputes as part of his broader commercial litigation practice and specialises in PRC-related cases under Hong Kong law. Wong is representing Cellmark China in the defence of a claim by Deloitte (as liquidators of a subsidiary of a listed company in Hong Kong) in excess of HK$2bn for conspiracy and diversion of some of the company’s assets. ‘Excellent’ team head Nick Gall has a strong reputation in the market and is regularly involved in the investigative side of insolvencies.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ multi-disciplinary approach to insolvency and restructuring draws upon expertise from the core two-partner group, as well as those with a specialism in litigation, finance, corporate and employment. The team is therefore well positioned to represent a broad spectrum of stakeholders in formal insolvencies, in addition to more transactional matters including distressed M&A and the purchase of distressed debt. Gareth Thomas specialises in insolvency disputes and is currently representing DBS Bank in the defence of a high-value claim brought against it by the liquidators of Galleria. Alexander Aitken has a focus on non-contentious work including advising on complex restructurings and workouts, purchase of distressed debt, and lending to companies in financial difficulty.

With three partners who handle a significant amount of restructuring and insolvency work as part of their broader corporate, finance and litigation practices, King & Wood Mallesons provides a holistic service to a range of stakeholders engaged in the more transactional aspects of restructuring work (including distressed M&A) in addition to formal insolvency procedures. Splitting her time between Hong Kong and Beijing, Helena Huang excels in complex reorganisations across many different sectors and is a key member of the team that also includes litigator Edmund Wan, who specialises in insolvency disputes, and corporate and securities partner Gary Lock, who is able to add value by virtue of his complementary debt restructuring and delisting expertise.

On an upward trajectory’, specialist litigation firm Lipman Karas has been ‘building up some very effective connections’ in the market since its establishment in 2009. The ‘extremely dogged and detail-oriented’ Tim Kentish has particularly deep experience in relation to the investigation and pursuit of claims arising out of significant corporate collapses against professional advisers, directors and third party recipients of company property. The ‘superb’ and ‘very clever’ James Wood and Jason Karas are also recommended.

Stephenson Harwood is ‘performing well in the market’ and is particularly well placed to handle work emanating from the shipping and commodities markets in light of the firm’s overall sector strength in those areas. Team head Jamie Stranger is well regarded in the market and had a key role alongside lawyers from the firm’s London office during the representation of Chinese coking coal group E-Commodities Holdings regarding the successful cross-jurisdictional restructuring of its listed bonds. In a matter which involved numerous complex aspects, it required parallel schemes of arrangement in the BVI and Hong Kong, as well as Chapter 15 recognition; notably, this was the first Hong Kong scheme of arrangement to be recognised under Chapter 15. Ivan Ng is recommended for insolvency litigation. Clients also include FTI Consulting, Zolfo Cooper, Raiffeisen Bank International and Grant Thornton.

With strong connections to the local business community, Wilkinson & Grist specialises in advising clients in formal insolvency proceedings and insolvency-related litigation. Keith Ho and Paul Liu continue to act for the liquidators of JV Fitness in numerous matters associated with its liquidation, including on tenancy-related issues with landlords of the fitness centres. Lawrence Chan has experience advising on insolvency matters involving parallel processes in different jurisdictions.

Disputes and investigations boutique Kobre & Kim provides a ‘responsive, thorough, professional and helpful service’ to stakeholders engaged in multi-jurisdictional insolvency disputes, and since it maintains no ongoing commercial arrangements with any clients is able to provide a conflict-free service and an unfettered approach to litigation. ‘Very effective and knowledgeable’ team head Randall Arthur ‘understands local and worldwide situations’, and is therefore able to ‘provide useful assessments and effective options’ to clients across a range of matters including insolvency disputes, international judgment enforcements and offshore asset recovery. Arthur is representing the liquidators of Shagang Shipping Company in the enforcement in Hong Kong of a $70m UK judgment obtained by Shagang against HNA Group Company.

Resourcing restructuring and insolvency work from the office’s litigation and banking teams, Norton Rose Fulbright lacks the standalone capability of many firms in the ranking but it still picks up a significant amount of work, particularly where there is a cross-border angle, by virtue of the team’s ability to work with practitioners across its vast network of global offices. ‘Tenacious and committed’ head of litigation Camille Jojo handles contentious insolvency matters, while ‘knowledgeable’ head of banking Peter Haslam has expertise on the non-contentious restructuring front.

ONC Lawyers has an excellent reputation among local IPs (including Deloitte Touche, PwC and Baker Tilly) and is regularly engaged in high-profile insolvency matters. Senior partner Ludwig Ng has ‘vast experience in the market’ and is regularly at the forefront of the most significant matters handled by the team, including its ongoing work for the provisional liquidators of five subsidiary companies of KCK Group in relation to various actions brought against the directors and related companies in Hong Kong and the BVI. Eric Woo is also recommended.

Drawing on the expertise of lawyers within its dispute resolution and banking and finance practices, Reed Smith Richards Butler often handles work for a range of stakeholders including liquidators, steering committees and directors on domestic and multi-jurisdictional restructurings and insolvencies. Banking partner Christopher Tang recently advised Trillion Trophy Asia on a HK$153m restructuring loan to Birmingham International Holdings (in receivership), a company listed on the HKSE. Desmond Liaw and Asha Sharma often handle contentious insolvency work as part of their broader commercial litigation practices.

Leveraging the firm’s market-leading ship finance franchise, Watson Farley & Williams picks up a significant amount of work for banks (including BNP Paribas, Commerzbank and The Korea Development Bank) on maritime-related restructuring matters. ‘Knowledgeable’ Madeline Leong provides ‘commercial and practical advice’ on restructuring matters, and is praised for her ability to ‘think outside the box’. Christoforos Bisbikos is also recommended for his ‘user-friendly advice’ to banks on both new money financings and restructurings in the shipping sector.

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