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Three local firms – Christopher Lee & Co, Lee Ong & Kandiah and Kamilah & Chong – merged to form Christopher & Lee Ong in July 2013. The new firm, which has an association with major Singaporean player Rajah & Tann LLP, has strong energy, corporate and shipping capabilities.
Headline transactions in the market included the $3bn merger of Malaysian oil-and-gas players SapuraCrest and Kencana, a deal on which Albar & Partners and Zul Rafique & Partners acted; and the $5.4bn listing of Felda on Bursa Malaysia, wherein Albar & Partners represented the issuer. The insurance market has also been a busy source of M&A.
Malaysian firms have come to accept that foreign firms will be granted rights to practise in the near future. The opening of Trowers & Hamlins LLP’s representative office in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 appears to have made inroads in some areas – particularly in gaining local clients for international Islamic finance deals – and other major international law firms, particularly those which already act on inbound deals into the country, may soon follow.
On the legislative front, developments in 2013 were dominated by the Financial Services Act and Islamic Financial Services Act, the latter of which is partly an attempt by the government of Malaysia to make its shari’ah-compliant financial services market more attractive to investors. Some firms have elected to make the two acts a specialist focus in order to attract enquiries from foreign companies.
Attempts by the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration to make the country a major venue for international disputes have met with varied success. While the country’s reputation for ADR has no doubt improved, few see it as a desirable alternative to the leading Asian arbitration centres of Hong Kong and Singapore.