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South Korea’s domestic market remains sluggish, with lawyers reporting slim pickings on the M&A and capital markets fronts. In contrast, firms report an uptick in outbound transactions, and a marked increase in shipping finance. Also, more corporate private auctions are taking place as holding companies seek to sell off subsidiaries.
Outside the transactional arena, employment continues to be a busy area as companies seek to navigate South Korea’s idiosyncratic employment laws; and the ongoing Apple v Samsung patent litigation in relation to smartphones and software continues to generate headlines.
The South Korean market opened up to foreign firms in 2012, with a number taking the opportunity to open an office in the jurisdiction. Linklaters joins Allen & Overy, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Paul Hastings LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in the top tier of foreign firms this year; all have offices in the country except Allen & Overy, which continues to serve the jurisdiction from Hong Kong.
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On October 28, 2013, the Financial Services Commission (the “FSC”) announced an accounting system reformation plan related to the amendment to the Act on External Audit of Stock Companies (the “Plan”) aiming primarily at improving transparency of limited companies ( yuhan heosa ) and non-listed large company’s accounting system.
As noted in our previous issue, the Act on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances (K-REACH) and Chemicals Control Act (CCA) were recently enacted. Below are some of the key updates on K-REACH and CCA.
On November 27, 2013, the Korea Fair Trade Commission ("KFTC") agreed to apply for the first time the consent decree process in its investigation of Naver and Naver Business Platform (jointly, "Naver") and Daum Communications ("Daum") for their alleged violations of Korea's Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Law ("FTL").
On February 18, 2014, the Ministry of Environment of Korea ("MoE") announced an advance notice for the draft subordinate statutes of the K-REACH and Chemicals Control Act ("CCA"). Provided below are the key provisions of the legislation that is to take effect on January 1, 2015.
Ordinary wage, the standard in assessing compensation for overtime, nighttime and holiday work and unused annual leaves, refers to any money paid regularly, uniformly and on a fixed basis. On December 18, 2013, the Supreme Court rendered two full bench decisions on the scope of ordinary wage. Kim & Chang represented the Defendant-Appellant Kabul Autotech in both cases, in which the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the lower courts in favor of the Defendant-Appellant and remanded the cases.
Further to the Personal Information Protection Act ( PIPA ), the comprehensive data privacy law passed in March 2011 which will take effect on September 30, 2011, 1 the government has unveiled draft regulations to flesh out a number of the applicable requirements and standards. The drafts of the Enforcement Decree and the Enforcement Regulations, published on May 24, 2011, include significant requirements relating to data security, which, like other provisions, apply to any entity that handles personal information files for work purposes (referred to as “data handlers” below). Also now spelled out are various details concerning consent requirements, website sign-up rules, video camera restrictions, use of third party data handlers, reporting of leaks, and collective dispute mediation.
In a move to stabilize Korean financial markets that have been battered by last week's U.S. credit downgrade, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) announced on August 9, 2011 that it would impose a temporary ban on all short selling of listed securities traded on the Korea Exchange (KRX), including the main board KOSPI markets and secondary tech-heavy KOSDAQ markets. On August 10, 2011, the KRX adopted the prohibition on short selling for three months (August 10 to November 9, 2011). At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, a temporary ban on all short selling had also been imposed in an effort to prevent short selling from destabilizing the local bourse. In June 2009, the FSC lifted the ban at least on covered short selling of non-financial stocks. Naked short selling is prohibited under the existing rules, so this temporary ban will have the effect of prohibiting all types of covered short selling of securities listed on the KRX such as stocks, convertible bonds, bonds with warrants, equity-linked warrants (ELWs), equity-linked funds (ETFs), warrants and beneficiary certificates (but not straight bonds).
The Financial Services Commission (FSC) announced that the three-month ban on all short selling of listed securities traded on the Korea Exchange (KRX) will be lifted on non-financial stocks starting from November 10, 2011, while the ban will be maintained on financial stocks for the time being due to their greater vulnerability to external factors such as euro zone risks. However, this remaining ban on financial stocks will not extend to short selling by liquidity providers to provide quotations, which will continue to be permitted. On August 10, 2011, the KRX adopted a temporary ban on all short selling for three months following the U.S. credit downgrade.
Capsule summary: Under amended business combination reporting rules effective from January 1, 2012, stock acquisitions by large companies will generally trigger prior review by the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). Other rule changes will allow a broader range of presumptively harmless transactions to use a simplified or fast-track merger review process, but at the same time the changes will permit closer scrutiny of anti-competitive effect in case of transactions that do not qualify for that process. Also, in a late 2011 ruling, the KFTC for the first time imposed corrective measures for an offshore business combination.
The Exempted Limited Partnership Law, 2014 (the New ELP Law ) has replaced the Exempted Limited Partnership Law (2013 Revision) (the Previous Law ). The New Law includes significant changes to the Cayman Islands' statutory framework regulating exempted limited partnerships ( ELPs ) that will increase the attractiveness of ELPs and will be appreciated by managers, investors and creditors alike. Private equity sponsors in particular will notice substantial improvements that are indicative of Cayman's continuing commitment to balanced and commercially sensible legislation. Read more...
RESTRUCTURING - COURT PROCEDURES
On 23 May 2014, the States of Jersey passed the Companies (Amendment No. 11) (Jersey) Law 201- (the Amendment Law ). This will now be sent to the UK Privy Council for consideration, then laid before the States of Jersey for a final time before coming into force. The latest information we have is that the Privy Council will be approving the law on 19 July 2014 and it may come into effect as soon as 4 August 2014.
The Hague, 4 July 2014 - BarentsKrans has appointed Joost Fanoy as a partner in the Antitrust & Public Procurement department, effective as of July 1, 2014. Joost specializes in European law in general with a particular focus on European and Dutch competition, public procurement and state aid law and is the head of the Antitrust and Public Procurement Practice Group. Joost is also a member of the Cartel damages team of BarentsKrans.
PineBridge Investments Middle East, a global multi-asset class investment manager with regional headquarters in Bahrain, and nearly 60 years of experience in emerging and developed markets, has acquired a 50% equity stake in Romatem, the leading physical therapy and rehabilitation services chain in Turkey.
Isbank issued 750 million USD notes under its GMTN programme established in 2013. The notes are listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and bear interest at the rate of 5 % with a maturity date 2021. Mr. Omer Collak (partner) and Mr. Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have acted for the joint lead managers Barclays, Citigroup, HSBC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and The Royal Bank of Scotland.
Halkbank issued five-year term fixed interest rate US currency notes, with a total amount of USD 500 million with an interest rate of 4.765 % and an annual coupon rate of 4.750 %. The notes offered the lowest borrowing rate in the first five-month period of 2014, and total demand rose nearly nine-fold due to high investor interest. The note issuance drew great interest from international investors settled in the Middle East and Asia, as well as those investors based in the US and Europe. Mr Omer Collak (partner) and Mr Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have advised the joint lead managers.
Turkiye Finans issued the first ringgit sukuk originating from Turkey. The bank initially raised MYR 1 billion with a five-year commodity sukuk on June 30, with an annual return of 6 %. The sukuk under the programme will have tenure of one to 20 years. Funds raised will go towards general corporate purposes. The sukuk will be issued through TF Varlik Kiralama A.S., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Turkiye Finans. Malaysia's RAM Ratings has accorded the programme an indicative long-term rating of AA3. HSBC Amanah Malaysia and Standard Chartered Saadiq were the joint advisers. Mr Omer Collak (partner) and Mr Baris Kencebay (head of tax practice) have advised Turkiye Finans and the issuer TF Varlik Kiralama A.S.
Ziraat Bank, the largest state owned bank of Turkey, established GMTN programme on 21 May 2014, for the notes to be issued up to USD 2 billion listed on Irish Stock Exchange. The notes are unconditional, unsubordinated and unsecured obligations, and rank pari-passu with Ziraat Bank's other senior unsecured obligations.
Vakifbank issued EUR 500 million 5-year unsecured and unsubordinated notes under the first GMTN programme of Turkey established in 2013. The notes are listed on Irish Stock Exchange and bear interest at the rate of 3.5 % p.a. with a maturity date 17 June 2019. This is the very first EUR denominated RegS offering of a Turkish entity.