Antitrust and competition in Hong Kong
Led from Hong Kong by the 'experienced and knowledgeable' Stephen Crosswell and also benefiting from a pervasive presence throughout Asia - including a joint operation with the mainland China-based FenXun Partners (thereby enabling it to deal directly with the PRC regulatory body) - Baker McKenzie's three-partner team is well-positioned to provide the merger control advice pursuant to big-ticket Asian M&A. As well as advice on discrete fee-earning mandates, the team has also helped develop numerous online tools to assist clients on competition matters, including a Global Dawn Raid App and its Global Merger Analysis Platform. As one of only a few specialist competition law solicitor advocates in Hong Kong, Crosswell has intimate knowledge of the development of the country's competition case law and continues to represent British Telecom, as one of the respondents, in the first case brought by the regulator following the establishment of a formal competition framework under the Competition Ordinance. Special counsel Thomas Jenkins is also a key member of the team and provides a versatile service to clients across a range of transactional, advisory and contentious competition matters.
Alliance Construction Materials
British American Tobacco
Continental Automotive Systems, Inc
Hino Motors Ltd
Hon Hai Industry Co., Ltd. (Foxconn)
Hong Kong Telecom
Jin Jiang International Hotels
MUFG Bank Ltd.
Nutreco Nederland B.V.
Press Metal Bhd
SKC Co. Ltd
Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service Company, Limited
Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Company
Texas Pacific Group
- Advised Metro AG on the establishment of a strategic partnership with Wumei Technology Group, a leading retailer in China.
- Represented Thai petrochemicals conglomerate PTTGC in connection with the establishment of Thailand’s first plastics recycling facility, a joint venture with European plastic supplier Alpla. The team provided multi-jurisdictional merger support for this ground-breaking deal, represented both parties before the SAMR to obtain Chinese merger control approval and coordinated merger filings in both the EU and Turkey.
- Advised Tencent on its voluntary cash offer to acquire all shares of game developer, Funcom SE, a Dutch company listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The team provided legal advice throughout the voluntary takeover process, including assessing the extent to which the proposed deal triggered merger control filings and other antitrust issues.
Under the leadership of 'professional and approachable' counsel Marcus Pollard, who was himself formerly in-house at the Hong Kong Competition Commission during the formulation of the country's nascent antitrust legislation, Linklaters has been at the vanguard of the developing case law under the new system. Able to provide unique insight into the regulator's mindset following his tenure at the Commission, Pollard has been instructed by clients as respondents across a range of antitrust investigations, including as it relates to cartel behaviour and abuse of dominance, as well as in full-blown enforcement matters (including its role for Innovix as one of the respondents in the Commission's first enforcement case relating to vertical bid-rigging). Able to draw from the expertise of lawyers based throughout the firm's vast global network and to leverage the firm's premier corporate offering, the team is also well-positioned to advise on merger clearance matters which transcend national boundaries, within and beyond the region.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team delivers robust legal advice which is highly attuned to the relevant commercial drivers.’
‘Marcus Pollard and Kathleen Gooi are professional and approachable and have extensive knowledge in competition law.’
Charoen Pokphand Group
China Merchants Port
Novartis International AG
CPP Investment Board
Hong Kong Association of Pharmaceutical Industry
- Advising Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group on its $10.6bn acquisition of Tesco’s businesses in Thailand and Malaysia – the biggest ever corporate acquisition in Thailand and the largest in Asia in 2020. This is the first ever in-depth merger case before the new Thai regulator – and has raised a range of novel and challenging substantive and procedural issues as a “first” case in an emerging jurisdiction.
- Representing the pharmaceutical industry and its 33 multinational healthcare companies in the first ever exemption application to the Hong Kong Competition Commission for clearance for its proposed market data survey. As the first application of its kind in Hong Kong, the untested process has raised a range of novel procedural and substantive issues for Linklaters to advise on.
- Representing Innovix, a member of the Jardine Matheson Group, in defending the first ever cartel prosecution in the Hong Kong Competition Tribunal and now the appeal proceedings in the Court of Appeal. As the first ever case in Hong Kong, we were at the cutting edge of procedural and substantive issues.
With five dedicated antitrust lawyers based in Hong Kong and also able to leverage the expertise of practitioners with considerable competition law expertise from across the firm's extensive Asia Pacific network, Norton Rose Fulbright has the critical mass and depth of knowledge to effectively advise domestic and international clients across the spectrum of Hong Kong specific and pan-Asian transactional and contentious antitrust mandates. The team regularly provides strategic advice to clients responding to regulatory investigations and litigation regarding alleged cartel behaviour, including its high-profile work for a container port operator in a probe by the competition watchdog into potential monopolistic behaviour by virtue of a "super alliance" with three of the other four operators at one of the world’s busiest container ports. On the transactional front, as well as advising on work generated from the firm's own institutional corporate client base, the team is also regularly brought in to act as specialist competition law counsel on mandates where another law firm is handling the corporate aspects of the deal. As well as handling pure Hong Kong-focused work, 'experienced and accomplished' team head Marc Waha is also adept at helping multinational clients navigate the complexities of emerging antitrust regimes throughout East Asia, as well as representing Asian clients before European competition authorities.
Delta Air Lines
Modern Terminals Limited
- Advising Modern Terminals Limited on the establishment of the Hong Kong Seaport Alliance, a new form of joint venture with the other Hong Kong port terminal operators HPH, CHT and ACT under which the parties will jointly operate their facilities on a “terminal neutral” basis.
- Advising Cathay Pacific on the competition law aspects of its acquisition of rival airline Hong-Kong Express.
- Jointly advised Total, a French major energy player which produces and markets fuels, natural gas and low-carbon electricity, and Envision, one of China’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers, in relation to the creation of two joint ventures for the construction of solar plants and production of solar energy through power purchase agreements (PPAs) in China. The transaction gave rise to vertical overlaps on several markets in China and worldwide.
Slaughter and May
Despite lacking the geographical reach throughout Asia that many of its peer firms have, Slaughter and May has developed strong relationships with leading local firms and is thereby well-positioned to handle pan-Asian antitrust matters, including merger clearance mandates, leading the work from its Hong Kong and Beijing offices. 'Very knowledgeable and approachable' team head Natalie Yeung splits her time between both these offices and as well as her ability to provide 'sharp and concise' merger control advice (particularly on matters with a significant China nexus), is also well-versed in representing clients in their dealings with the Hong Kong regulator, including her recent work for a major online travel agency, as one of the parties subject to a probe by the watchdog into online hotel booking platform parity clauses. Yeung has also been particularly active advising clients from the financial services industry across a range of competition-related matters.
Other key lawyers:
‘The very experienced team has the specialised knowledge to cover a variety of topics within this area. Their service is outstanding, always efficient, and cost-effective.’
‘A strong competition practice, with robust and practical advice on risk mitigation. The firm’s advice strikes me as more user-friendly and pragmatic, and they show a good understanding of the client’s perspectives and business.’
‘The team has substantial experience and expertise in merger control filing and can also provide helpful strategies in managing and resolving hurdles during the course of work.’
‘Natalie Yeung is an excellent lawyer who is very knowledgeable in the area of competition law. She is approachable and is easily accessible and her advice is well analysed and always practical. She is highly recommended.’
‘Natalie Yeung is an excellent practitioner with a good business sense. She is sharp and spot on. Coupled with her dedication, she makes a trusted adviser for clients.’
‘Natalie Yeung is sharp, concise, and quick to respond to questions and issues asked by clients. Her presentation is impressive and can clarify questions raised by regulators clearly and efficiently.’
‘Natalie Yeung knows very well about Chinese agency’s practice and can identify issues which are crucial for a smooth merger filing procedure.’
‘Alexander Lee provides good analysis and advice to clients.’
Booking Holdings (and various group companies)
‘Drink Without Waste’ Working Group
Elanco Animal Health
Hong Kong Association of Banks
Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association
Imperial Metal Corporation
Marsh & McLennan Companies
Orient Overseas (International) Limited
PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited
Rolls Royce Holdings
Royal Dutch Shell
Standard Chartered Bank
Swire Beverages Holdings
- Advising Elanco on its $7.6bn acquisition of Bayer’s Animal Health business.
- Advising Booking.com in respect of the investigation conducted by the Hong Kong Competition Commission into online hotel booking platform parity clauses.
- Advising the Single-use Beverage Packaging Working Group, known as ‘Drink Without Waste’, on a pro bono basis, in relation to a cutting-edge initiative to reduce plastic beverage container waste in Hong Kong.
Allen & Overy
Led from Hong Kong by François Renard, and regularly working closely with colleagues in mainland China and Thailand, Allen & Overy provides a comprehensive service to multinational and regional corporates on their Asia-related antitrust requirements. Although the team remains active advising on the Asia-related merger clearance advice pursuant to M&A spearheaded by the firm's European offices, it is increasingly engaged in standalone Asia-related mandates, whether it be in the context of pan-Asian M&A or in an advisory setting. Renard 'has a deep understanding of competition law in the region' and is adept at handling investigations and enforcement actions initiated by the Hong Kong Competition Commission, as well as representing clients on antitrust-related international arbitration work. The firm is also well-placed to advise Asian clients on the EU competition law aspects associated with their outbound transactional work.
‘François Renard has a deep understanding of competition law in the region, and is able to crystalize complex competition law concepts into clear and practical advice.’
BYD and Toyota Motor
China Ping An
- Retained by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) on two international antitrust knowhow projects including on abuses of dominant position and merger control across various jurisdictions including U.S., EU, UK, Germany and Australia.
- Advised BYD Company and Toyota Motor (a long-standing client of the firm) on the merger control aspects of the creation of a joint-venture active in the field of research and development of electric battery passenger cars and components.
- Advised Singamas Container Holdings Limited on the disposal of five subsidiaries principally engaged in the manufacturing and sale of standardised container to China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited at a consideration of $565m in cash, subject to adjustment.
Benefiting from a sizeable deal flow, by virtue of the firm's blue riband roster of multinational and regional corporates/private equity sponsors and also able to draw upon the expertise of antitrust practitioners spread throughout its global network, Clifford Chance's Hong Kong office is particularly accomplished at advising on the Asia-specific elements of big-ticket multi-jurisdictional M&A mandates. Following Richard Blewett's relocation to the firm's Brussels office in March 2020, the firm's Greater China offering is now led out of Beijing by Yong Bai , with assistance from Hong Kong by litigation senior associate Helen Wang . Consequently, in spite of Blewett's departure, the firm remains reasonably well-positioned to advise on the antitrust-related input pursuant to big-ticket pan-Asian M&A, which involve significant interaction with the Chinese regulator.
Other key lawyers:
China Baowu Steel Group
China National Agrochemical Co., Ltd
State Development and Investment Corporation
- Advising GE on the antitrust aspects of the $21.4bn disposal of its biopharma business to Danaher.
- Advised SABIC on the antitrust aspects of Saudi Aramco’s $69bn acquisition of 70% majority stake in SABIC from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
- Advised China Baowu Steel Group Corporation Limited on its acquisition of 51% interest in Magang Group.
Strengthened in May 2020 by a team of senior general commercial litigators from Clifford Chance, Gibson Dunn is increasingly well-resourced to handle contentious matters, from the initial investigation stage, through to any full-blown enforcement actions that may ensue. This aspect of the practice complements an already strong advisory and merger clearance offering from Hong Kong, which forms an integral part of the firm's overarching global competition law offering and is regularly instructed by large multinationals to help secure the pan-Asian regulatory approvals associated with large-scale transactions. Led out of Hong Kong by 'knowledgeable and experienced' team head Sébastien Evrard, the firm's ability to successfully coordinate an effective and cohesive pan-Asian competition strategy was recently underscored by its representation of Uber in connection with Grab's acquisition of its Southeast Asia operations.
Other key lawyers:
Hong Kong Telecommunications
Philip Morris International
- Advising Uber on the merger clearance aspects associated with Grab’s acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia operations.
- Successfully represented Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT) before the Court of Appeal of Hong Kong against REIT Link, relating its anti-competitive practices preventing HKT from accessing buildings.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Led from Hong Kong by the 'practical and responsive' Adelaide Luke and aided by a sizeable presence on mainland China (including the establishment in 2019 of a Chinese joint operation enabling the firm to advise on PRC law from Shanghai), Herbert Smith Freehills is increasingly well-positioned to advise regional and international clients across the spectrum of antitrust matters with an Asian nexus. Luke has broad-ranging knowledge of many Asian competition regimes, enabling her to effectively co-ordinate the merger control aspects for corporate clients on M&A and JVs in the region. In addition, she is well-versed in EU and UK competition law and has handled numerous cartel cases for Asian clients before the Competition Commission.
‘The team has invested in understanding our business and provides practical and useable advice.’
‘One of their key strengths is their ability to provide practical and “straight to the point” advice.’
‘The very responsive Adelaide Luke provides high-quality advice, which is practical and implementable.’
Marriot International Inc.
Associated British Foods plc and Wilmar International
Furukawa Electric Co
Tata Motors Limited
- Advising Boral Limited on the complex competition law issues arising from the proposed reorganisation of the Asia-wide joint venture between Boral and Knauf GmbH.
- Advises Genus, a British animal genetics company, on its strategic collaboration with Beijing Capital Agribusiness.
- Continue to act for Marriott on ongoing competition law questions or matters, including advising them in relation to their response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s high-profile market study into customer loyalty schemes.
Co-headed by John Hickin and Hannah Ha, Mayer Brown's Asian competition law group advises regional and international corporates (including many within the financial services and real estate sectors) across a range of advisory compliance, merger control, and investigations-related work. The firm is, perhaps, best-known, however, for its contentious expertise and in this regard Ha is well-placed to guide local clients through investigations initiated by the Competition Commission by virtue of her fluency in both Cantonese and Mandarin. In addition, clients benefit from Hickin's broader commercial litigation competence and his ability to leverage this to provide a 'strategic and nuanced' service to clients in the investigation phase, as well as any pursuant litigation before the Competition Tribunal.
Led from Hong Kong by Philip Monaghan and also able to draw from significant resources in mainland China, O'Melveny is particularly effective advising on the PRC-related competition law aspects associated with the M&A activity of technology and telecoms companies in the region. The firm's strong understanding of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) merger control process also manifests itself on remedy implementation, where on occasions, even when the firm is acting for the seller it has been approached by the purchasing party, post-close, in order to guide that company through remedy implementation. Himself, formerly a high-ranking official at the Hong Kong Competition Commission, Monaghan also benefits from a unique insight into the burgeoning local antitrust legal framework.
Other key lawyers:
Quantenna Communications, Inc.
TTM Technologies, Inc.
Leading multinational technology conglomerate
Leading semiconductor company
- Finisar Corporation in its successful sale to II-VI Incorporated in a cash-and-stock transaction
- Finisar Corporation in its acquisition by II-VI Incorporated and obtaining a conditional clearance decision from the China State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR)
- Quantenna Communications in its acquisition by ON Semiconductor in a merger filing with China’s SAMR
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP's six-strong Greater China antitrust team regularly provides invaluable support to international corporate clients of the firm on big-ticket international M&A, requiring clearance before the Chinese authorities. Team head Andrew Foster is a 'great guy to work with' and benefits from a deep understanding of Chinese competition law, having been involved in many of the highest-profile mergers scrutinised by the regulator in recent years. Also benefiting from EU and US antitrust knowledge, Foster is regularly engaged by Chinese companies, including many TMT entities, on the antitrust issues associated with their outbound corporate activity.
Willis Towers Watson
LINE Plus Corp.
Air Products &Chemicals
- Advised WABCO Holdings Inc. on the antitrust aspects of its $7bn acquisition by ZF Friedrichshafen AG (Germany).
- Advising Willis Towers Watson Plc, a global advisory, broking and solutions company, on the antitrust aspects of its merger with Aon Plc.
- Advising DuPont de Nemours, Inc. on the antitrust aspects of the $45.4bn combination of its nutrition and biosciences business (N&B) with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc
Able to call upon the expertise of its own in-house competition economist Sharon Pang , Deacons has been particularly well-positioned to provide effective and commercial advice to clients on risk management advisory work, as well as on contentious matters brought by the fledgling enforcement agency. Indeed, the firm has had some form of involvement in half of the cases heard before the Competition Tribunal, including being brought in to assist the lead counsel on the formulation of economic arguments and defence strategies for Meyer Aluminium, as respondent, in what was the first and to date only private cases referred to the Tribunal. Team head Machiuanna Chu was also involved in the aforementioned matter and also regularly provides antitrust structuring advice as an offshoot of her broader M&A expertise. Both Chu and Pang are also fluent Cantonese speakers and thereby are well-equipped to represent smaller local companies in dealings with the Competition Commission.
The Commercial Press (Hong Kong) Limited; Sino United Publishing (Holdings) Limited
Meyer Aluminium Limited
- Acts for Commercial Press and its parent company, Sino United, and leads the two companies’ defence team on a matter of Competition Tribunal Enforcement Action No. 2 of 2020 (CTEA 2/2020) between the HKCC and T.H. Lee, Commercial Press, Sino United and Mr. Hui Chiu Ming.
- Advises on two related matters of the Competition Tribunal Actions (CTA1/2018) and (CTA2/2018), between Meyer and Taching, and Meyer and Shell, respectively. The two actions are the first and only private litigation cases that were referred to the Competition Tribunal by a Hong Kong court (the High Court of the HKSAR Court of First Instance). Dr Sharon Pang was retained as an economist expert by Meyer in the two related matters.
Eversheds Sutherland has developed a strong reputation for litigation/regulatory domestic work since Adam Ferguson relocated from the UK to spearhead the practice in 2015. As well as representing private clients in relation to cartel and dominance investigations, the firm's 'deep well of experience in the telecoms sector', enables it to provide 'invaluable insight' on behalf of that industry's regulator, the Communications Authority, including recently successfully defeating a judicial review brought against it by Hong Kong Telecommunications. Although the team is less active on merger control matters, it has successfully forged a strong reputation advising airlines on the competition law implications associated with joint ventures and strategic co-operation arrangements.
‘The antitrust and competition team can draw from a deep well of experience, particularly in the field of telecommunications, which competition law issues have arisen for many years before the commencement of the Competition Ordinance.’
‘Mark Yeadon stands out for combining strength and experience in the areas of commercial litigation, competition law, and telecommunications regulation in a way that brings invaluable insights in each area.’
‘Adam Ferguson has a great store of knowledge and cross-jurisdictional experience in the area of competition law.’
Cathay Pacific Airways
Li & Fung
New World Developments
- Advising HNA group, on the merger control aspects of its HK$5bn disposal of low-cost carrier, HK Express, to Cathay Pacific Airways, which involved overseeing multiple merger filings in Asia.
- Acting in relation to two separate enforcement proceedings under the Competition Ordinance, which are expected to be the subject of Competition Tribunal proceedings.
- Advising the Communications Authority (CA) on the defence of High Court judicial review proceedings commenced by Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT) Limited, against the CA and the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development challenging their joint decision relating to the arrangements for the assignment of 200 MHz of the spectrum in the 900 and 1800 MHz bands when existing licensing arrangements come to an end in 2020/2021.
King & Wood Mallesons
With two Hong Kong-based partners who devote a considerable proportion of their time on antitrust issues and also benefiting from significant resources in mainland China, King & Wood Mallesons is well-placed to represent local and international companies across a wide range of contentious and non-contentious mandates. The 'very experienced' Neil Carabine has particular expertise at handling telecommunications corporate/M&A work and consequently has unique insight into the accompanying antitrust issues associated with this sector (the only sector within Hong Kong that is scrutinised for antitrust-related issues associated with M&A). General commercial litigator Edmund Wan co-heads the team alongside Carabine and is developing excellent credentials in the contentious space, primarily as a result of his continued representation of the Competition Commission in several price-fixing enforcement cases brought against local decorators.
Other key lawyers:
Hong Kong Competition Commission
Tiang & Partners
The 'excellent' Martyn Huckerby heads up Big Four accounting outfit PwC’s Hong Kong member firm Tiang & Partners' Asia Pacific competition law practice. Since establishing the practice in the middle of 2018, former King & Wood Mallesons partner Huckerby has gained significant traction in the market on merger clearance work, as well as in relation to investigations undertaken by the Hong Kong Competition Commission. The firm's effectiveness at representing clients in investigations and proceedings brought by the Hong Kong competition watchdog was further strengthened in October 2019 by the arrival of Dickie Mok from the Commission.
Other key lawyers:
‘Very responsive and unlocked what could have been a daunting exercise for a Europe-based client needing to navigate a PRC competition filing.’
‘Martyn Huckerby is excellent – he’s all over the technical detail (and produces the analysis on paper to back it up) but when speaking to the commercial team he gets right to the point.’
CargoSmart (Hong Kong) Limited
- Assisting Expedia in handling the investigation by the Hong Kong Competition Commission into the client’s agreements with hotel suppliers in Hong Kong (and those of other online travel agents).
- Advising on competition law issues in relation to the formation of a new consortium in the shipping industry, called the Global Shipping Business Network to enable the industry to leverage blockchain technology.