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Malaysia is increasingly being viewed as a leading capital markets centre in the region, with law firms benefiting from a significant increase in big–ticket work such as the $2.35bn Felda Global Ventures IPO.
It also remains keen on promoting the Kuala Lumpur Centre for Regional Arbitration, as an alternative venue for international arbitration in the region. The Chief Justice’s target for concluding court cases within nine months appears to have been successfully implemented, with lawyers and clients alike noting increased efficiency in the Malaysian court system.
The Malaysian Competition Act 2010 has not heralded a huge amount of work for lawyers thus far, with firms mainly focusing on regulatory advisory matters. More recent legislative changes have focused on the employment sector, with the government establishing Malaysia’s first minimum wage and a new Minimum Retirement Age Bill for the private sector. Another welcome move was the implementation of the country’s sexual harassment code, which was previously just treated as a guideline, as part of the Employment Act.
Progress towards approval of a Foreign Firms Bill is tentative. In July 2012, Trowers & Hamlins LLP became the first foreign firm to open a non–trading office in Kuala Lumpur with approval from the Malaysia Investment Development Authority. Firms based in Singapore and Hong Kong, such as Clifford Chance and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, remain active in Malaysia–related deals.