Singapore > Legal market overview
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Singapore continues to develop as a regional hub for international law firms conducting business in Southeast Asia and beyond. A further four international firms were granted Qualified Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences over the last 12 months: Jones Day, Linklaters Singapore Pte. Ltd, Sidley Austin LLP, and Gibson Dunn. The licence, now held by ten firms, allows foreign law firms to practise in Singaporean commercial law.
2013 also saw new formal alliances between international firms and their local counterparts: Clifford Chance’s tie up with Cavenagh Law LLP focuses primarily on dispute resolution; Stephenson Harwood’s alliance with Virtus Law LLP increases both firms’ shipping capabilities; and Clyde & Co Clasis Singapore’s alliance with Clasis LLC gives the joint venture combined international and local law expertise and advocacy. Other established alliances include Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow, Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee, and Pinsent Masons MPillay.
The market continues to see an increase in international law firms establishing new offices in the country, with foreign entrants now numbering over 100. New additions include Morrison & Foerster, Reed Smith, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Addleshaw Goddard LLP.
Singapore’s reputation as a seat for international arbitration is growing and the market remains in expansion mode. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) is increasingly becoming the venue of choice for Chinese companies and discussions are also underway to consider the feasibility of establishing a Singaporean International Commercial Court.
The local market continues to be dominated by four pre-eminent firms: Rajah & Tann LLP, Allen & Gledhill LLP, WongPartnership LLP, and Drew & Napier LLC. Real estate work is a mainstay, and the market remains so vibrant that there are fears of a property bubble. The government has introduced cooling measures and price stabilising has also been suggested. Other strong and competitive local firms include Shook Lin & Bok LLP, Stamford Law and Rodyk & Davidson LLP.
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Following on from our July 2013 issue, the Singapore Exchange ( SGX ) has recently announced that it will be introducing circuit breakers in the securities market from 24 February 2014 as an additional market safeguard.
The Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore ( MHA ) recently issued a public consultation paper seeking feedback on its proposals to restrict remote gambling in Singapore. Whilst the provision of gambling is prohibited in Singapore under the Common Gaming Houses Act and the Betting Act (unless specifically permitted by way of a licence or exemption), these laws do not expressly apply to remote gambling as they were enacted before the internet era.
The prospect of litigating in the local courts of one's counterparty can induce fear. Those courts may be perceived as inefficient or costly; their substantive and procedural laws may be unfamiliar or unpredictable in application; or their judiciary might not be (at least from one party's point of view) competent. Worst of all is the possibility of home-court bias against the foreign party: " there is little use in going to law with the devil while the court is held in hell ". 
The Singapore Exchange ( SGX ) announced on 7 February 2014 that it is enhancing its regulatory tools in line with international standards, by refining its query process and introducing new requirements. The following is a summary of these enhancements which will take effect from 3 March 2014.
Singapore, like many common law jurisdictions, permits a person to recover costs incurred in pursuing or defending a cause of action. At the risk of over-simplification, the winner is entitled to recover its costs from the loser. However, the amount of costs that the court orders the losing party to pay in a commercial case is subject to review by the court. In international arbitration, tribunals may also award costs to the winning party but, in contrast to litigation, the amount awarded is not subject to a court's review.
On 28 November 2013, the Monetary Authority of Singapore ( MAS ) released its Consultation Paper on the Review of the Banking Act ( Consultation Paper ). These proposed amendments aim to strengthen MAS' supervisory oversight over banks and codify MAS' expectations as to the risk management policies that banks should have in place. A public consultation is open until 15 January 2014.
On 2 January 2014, the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 ( PDPA ) came into force. It is concerned with, among other things, messages advertising or promoting goods or services, or a business or investment opportunity. Those messages are called "specified messages". Any business that intends to send such messages to a Singapore telephone number must check if that number is listed in the Do Not Call Registry ( DNC Registry ). If it is, such messages cannot be sent, unless the subscriber in question has given clear and unambiguous consent to receive them. Failure to comply with the PDPA is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to S$10,000.
The Ministry of Finance ( MOF ) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority ( ACRA ) are seeking public feedback on the second part of the draft Companies (Amendment) Bill covering legislative amendments in respect of foreign companies and other aspects of the Companies Act of Singapore. Public feedback is also being sought in respect of three new areas.
The Singapore Exchange ( SGX ) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission ( CSRC ) announced on 25 November 2013 that they will be establishing a direct listing framework which will allow for Chinese companies to list in Singapore.
Stamford Law advised Jurong Consultants Pte Ltd, a party in the Banyan Caverns Storage Services Pte Ltd ( BCSS ) consortium, in a successful joint venture bid to operate the Jurong Rock Caverns. The operatorship of South East Asia's first subterranean hydrocarbon storage facility will be for a period of 15 years and has a contractual value of about S$200 million.
Stamford Law successfully appealed in the Singapore Court of Appeal against a High Court judgment which held the main contractor solely liable in negligence for the collapse of a crane into a concealed manhole at a worksite in 2010, with the Court of Appeal apportioning 40% of liability in negligence to the subcontractor. The Court of Appeal's judgment clarified important issues of law pertaining to the legal responsibility for worksite safety, the relationship between the statutory framework of the Work Safety and Health Act (Cap 354A) and common law duties, and the applicable standard of care.
Stamford Law advised Tuaspring Pte. Ltd. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hyflux Ltd) in the S$720 million 18-year term loan facility to fund the development of Singapore's second and largest reverse osmosis desalination plant and integrated on-site power generation plant.
Stamford Law advised Kim Heng Offshore & Marine Holdings Limited on its initial public offering and listing on the Catalist board of the SGX-ST. Based in Singapore, Kim Heng is an established integrated offshore and marine value chain services provider for the oil & gas industry. Based on the invitation price of S$0.25, Kim Heng is valued at S$177.5 million post-offering.
Stamford Law acted as Singapore counsel to Bain Capital Partners LLC in its US$501 million offer to buy all shares of Macromill Inc., a Japanese online market research company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange which has Yahoo Japan Corporation as its biggest shareholder. Under the terms of the offer, Bain Capital will buy up to 65.4 million shares at 786 yen per Macromill share. Bain Capital is a private investment firm based in Boston, USA with more than US$70 billion in assets. Ropes & Gray (Tokyo) and Mori Hamada & Matsumoto are advising Bain Capital and TMI Associates is advising Macromill.
As part of Stamford Law's corporate responsibility initiatives, lawyers are encouraged to take on pro bono legal representations on a case-by-case basis.
Stamford Law is pleased to announce that our market-leading corporate practice has been ranked 2 nd amongst Singapore firms by Mergermarket for M&A activity by value within Q1-Q4 2013 in the Southeast Asia region. The firm's practice has a sizeable lead of $1.81 billion over the next Singapore firm on the league table.
Stamford Law is advising AVIC International Kairong Limited on the share acquisition and the implementation of a general offer for 39,762,858 shares of KHD Humboldt Wedag International AG which are listed on the regulated market of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The offer values KHD at over EUR 320 million.
Stamford Law represented the Rickmers Trust Management Pte. Ltd., Trustee-Manager of Mainboard-listed Rickmers Maritime (a business trust), in the establishment of its S$300 million multicurrency medium term note programme. DBS Bank Ltd. and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation acted as joint arrangers and dealers of the programme.
Stamford Law is pleased to announce that our senior director, LEE Suet-Fern has just been named the "Best in Mergers and Acquisitions and Private Equity" at the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards 2013. The ceremony took place at the end of November at the Conrad Hotel Hong Kong with Stella Lau, chairperson from the Hong Kong government organisation, The Women's Commission, addressing the audience with the keynote speech.