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Singapore > Legal market overview

Editorial

Singapore’s economy grew by just 2% in 2015 due to global macro-economic headwinds, and recent forecasts indicated that growth would remain sluggish in 2016 to between 1% and 2%. Factors attributable to this trend included an ongoing Chinese economic slowdown, global financial markets volatility and falling commodity prices.

In the capital markets arena, there were only 13 IPOs in Singapore in 2015; only one was a mainboard listing and the remainder were Catalist listings. In 2014, by comparison, there were 30 IPOs in the city-state, of which 12 were mainboard listings.

On a more positive note, there were 591 M&A transactions in Singapore in 2015 (with a total value of $101.2bn), compared with 346 M&A deals in 2014 (with a total value of $50.7bn). M&A deal flow in the wider Asia Pacific region was strong in 2015, and also in the first quarter of 2016, a significant proportion of which was generated by Chinese outbound transactions.

Elsewhere, Singapore remains a hub for international arbitration; the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) recently announced that it had received 271 cases in 2015, an increase from 222 cases filed in 2014. The Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which opened in January 2015, issued its first judgment in May 2016 in a cross-border joint venture dispute.

Singapore’s legal market includes Allen & Gledhill LLP, Drew & Napier LLC, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP and WongPartnership LLP, the four largest domestic firms. Also well known locally are Colin Ng & Partners LLP, Shook Lin & Bok LLP and TSMP Law Corporation. Of the international firms, some focus on providing purely foreign law services for clients out of Singapore, while others leverage qualifying foreign law practice (QFLP) licences to offer an additional Singapore law capability. Various foreign firms have also entered into formal law alliances (FLAs), joint law ventures (JLVs) or even merged with local firms, and such tie-ups are a continuing trend in the city-state. For example, in 2015, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP entered into an FLA with Prolegis LLC, and Holman Fenwick Willan Singapore LLP announced an FLA with AsiaLegal LLC, which operates under the HFW AsiaLegal banner. In 2016, an FLA was agreed between Reed Smith LLP and Resource Law LLC, while RPC entered into a JLV with Premier Law (now operating as RPC Premier Law). Dentons recently merged with Rodyk & Davidson LLP, forming Dentons Rodyk.

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