IFLR 1000 (2014) Edition
The rankings and editorials on Rajah & Tann, R&T Sok & Heng, Christopher & Lee Ong and Assegaf Hamzah & Partner released by the IFLR are highlighted below. The ranking for Rajah & Tann remains the same as last year.
Ranking - Rajah & Tann
Banking – Tier 2
Capital markets – Tier 2
Mergers and acquisitions – Tier 2
Restructuring and insolvency – Tier 1
This heavyweight full-service Singapore firm – the largest by number of lawyers – is highly regarded across a range of practices and has been expanding its significant reach across the region.
In March 2013, it launched an office in Myanmar – Rajah & Tann NK Legal Myanmar – an integrated firm with local firm NK Legal. In July, its alliance with new Malaysian firm Christopher & Lee Ong – the result of a three-way merger between Christopher Lee & Co, Lee Ong & Kandiah and Kamilah & Chong – was announced.
The R&T network of offices now also includes China, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia through regional offices and associated firms. It also announced a tie-up with Indonesian firm Assegaf Hamzah & Partners in May 2013.
The firm is recognised for its outstanding restructuring and insolvency team. Managing partner of the firm, senior counsel Lee Eng Beng, keeps an active commercial litigation and arbitration practice and is regarded as an authority in the area. "Mr Lee is always two or three steps ahead of his opponents," says a client.
Kwan Kiat Sim heads the sizeable department, which also features key partner Patrick Ang. The firm has been acting for the liquidators of MF Global Singapore, part of the worldwide insolvency of the MF Global group, and involving the recovery of customers' proprietary funds of over $400 million and complex court proceedings spanning Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong.
Other highlight matters include the firm's work for the liquidators of various Lehman Brothers entities; its role as Singapore counsel to lenders in the global restructuring of Danish shipping group Torm and its Singapore subsidiary; work for various bondholders of Berlian Laju Tanker; and for the creditors in the restructuring of companies in the Drydocks World group.
A key highlight for the team's M&A practice was its work acting for OCBC Bank and its insurance arm, Great Eastern Holdings, in the high profile S$3.8 billion ($2.9 billion) sale by the group and the Lee family of their minority stakes in Fraser and Neave and Asia Pacific Breweries to TCC Assets, an affiliate of Singapore-listed Thai Beverage. Senior partner Kian Hwee Goh and partner Serene Yeo led the team on the deal. Other major recent deals include its work for Gallant Venture on its takeover of IDX-listed Indomobil Sukses Internasional and acting for United Engineers on its mandatory offers for shares and convertible bonds of WBL Corporation.
Kim Huat Chia, who heads the firm's corporate and capital markets practice, is valued for being a rare lawyer bi-lingual in English & Chinese. "He has advised us on several China related cases (insolvency matters) and he has never failed us to-date," says a client.
The firm's capital markets work has featured a range of innovative landmark deals. In 2012, it acted for Religare Health Trust Trustee Manager and sponsor Fortis Healthcare on the listing of the Religare Health Trust on the main board of the Singapore exchange – a S$511 million offering which was notable for involving the first business trust comprising India healthcare assets, and the largest involving Indian assets – on the SGX-ST.
In the corporate finance space, the firm acted for the issue and GuocoLand as guarantor on a S$3 billion multicurrency medium term note and perpetual securities programme which completed in March 2013. Lead partner on the deal Angela Lim is a "true-blue" banking lawyer, says a peer.
In a region, which has featured strong bank liquidity, the firm's banking team acted for Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust on a syndicated loan of HK$12.15 billion ($1.5 billion) provided to finance its acquisition of a major retail mall in Hong Kong and Grade A office building in Beijing, China. The financing was timed concurrently with the trust's IPO, the largest real estate investment trust (REIT) IPO in Singapore to date.
Lee Eng Beng
Chia Kim Huat
Goh Kian Hwee
Ranking - R&T Sok & Heng
Financial and corporate - Tier 1
Singaporean Rajah & Tann took over Sok & Heng in Cambodia in February 2013. The new team called R&T Sok & Heng is led by Sok & Heng's founding partners: Sok Khavan and Heng Chhay. There are ten lawyers, including the partners, in the Phnom Penh office. "The tie-up with Rajah & Tann gives Sok & Heng additional resources and expertise which they can call on," a Singapore-based client says.
R&T Sok & Heng is a full-service firm, which advises clients on matters relating to various areas such as banking and finance, mergers and acquisitions and capital markets. The firm is active in securities and is currently working on three IPOs for private clients. Sectors where R&T Sok & Heng has solid expertise include mining and energy, oil and gas and the information and telecommunication technologies.
Recent highlights include advising Provident Capital Partners (Procap) in setting up its local presence in Cambodia. Partner Heng has also acted for Procap's affiliate company, CamTower Singapore, in conducting due diligence for the purpose of acquisition of telecommunication infrastructure properties in Cambodia. "Chhay was able to simplify and work around the issues that we had in a rather complicated structure due to his familiarity with the ever changing legal environment in Cambodia as well as practical issues that we faced when dealing with various structures in different provinces across the country," a client says.
Ranking - Christopher & Lee Ong
Banking – Tier 3
Capital markets – Tier 3
Mergers and acquisitions – Tier 4
Christopher & Lee Ong formed in July 2013 as the result of a three-way merger between Malaysian firms Christopher Lee & Co, Lee Ong & Kandiah and Kamilah & Chong.
The enlarged firm combines the corporate, banking and energy and natural resources expertise of Christopher Lee & Co with the disputes and shipping experience of partners from Lee Ong & Kandiah and Kamilah & Chong.
Christopher & Lee Ong benefit from an association with Singapore-based growing regional powerhouse Rajah & Tann.
In several recent high-profile deals, legacy firm Christopher Lee & Co acted for 1Malaysia Development Berhad on its RM8.5 billion ($2.6 billion) acquisition of Tanjong Energy Holdings, and for Sime Darby Healthcare on its RM1.5 billion joint venture with Ramsay Healthcare Australia.
In the debt capital markets space, Christopher Lee & Co acted for CIMB Investment Bank, Affin Investment Bank, HSBC Amanah Malaysia and Maybank Investment Bank as advisers on sukuk murabaha issuances by Teknologi Tenaga Perlis Consortium and its parent company, Jati Cakerwala. The firm garnered strong praise from clients, with one client saying, “we were very happy with their diligence and attention”.
Key partners in the merged firm, which has over 40 lawyers, include the highly regarded Christopher Lee, Lee Hock Chye and Ong Chee Kwan.
Ranking - Assegaf Hamzah & Partners
Banking – Tier 2
Capital markets – Tier 1
Mergers and acquisitions – Tier 1
Project Finance - Tier 2
Restructuring and insolvency – Tier 3
Top firm Assegaf Hamzah & Partners (AHP), one of the largest in Indonesia, has long been regarded as a "go to" firm for major capital markets work, recently acting on some of the country's most significant debt and equity offerings.
Further enhancing its capabilities on cross-border deals, the firm entered into a strategic alliance with Singapore based regional firm Rajah & Tann in May 2013.
Managing partner Ahmad Fikri Assegaf is lauded as a leading practitioner. He is "thoughtful, well-informal and practical", says an overseas client. The firm's capital markets practice spans local and global debt and equity offerings, including Rule 144A and Reg S offerings, private placements, rights issues and convertible instruments.
In the booming Indonesian debt capital markets space, some of the firm's recent headline deals include advising the joint lead managers, bookrunners and co-manager of the Republic of Indonesia $2.5 billion dual-tranche offering; and advising Indosat on the issuance of Rp2.7 trillion ($262 million) of bonds and Rp300 billion of Ijarah sukuks (Islamic bond) listed on the Indonesia stock exchange.
The firm's banking mandates reflect its strong relationships with government and regulatory authorities, as well as its growing relations with Korean banks on transactional and disputes work. The practice also works for private equity investors and features expertise in shariah-compliant investment and financing transactions.
Fikri Assegaf, Eko Basyuni, Ibrahim Sjarief Assegaf and Eri Budiarti are the key projects lawyers. Recent deals include the firm's work for Star Energy Geothermal (Wayang Windu) on a $350 million bond, which will help finance the development of its geothermal generating capacity and work for Indonesian fertiliser producer Panca Amara Utama on its contract with Japan's Toyo Engineering to build a $750 million ammonia plant in Luwuk, Central Sulawesi.
Deputy head of the firm's banking practice, Yanu Wiriasmoko, has been advising the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation on the sale and privatisation of Bank Mutiara, and recently acted for Reswara Minergi Hartama on a $150 million loan from a syndicate of banks. Key partner Ibrahim Assegaf recently represented Singapore-based Indies Investments on the provision of a Rp325 billion ($34 million) loan to property developer Sentul City. The firm promoted Tunggul Utomo, who practices in banking and finance, capital markets and M&A, to partner in 2012.
The firm has a strong track record of corporate and M&A work, including deals in the energy, mining, retail and financial services sectors. Highlighting the continuation of healthy inbound investment, Bono Daru Adji advised Amanda Cipta Persada on the sale of a 30% stake in convenience store operator Midi Utama Indonesia to Japan based retailer Lawson Asia Holding. Fikri Assegaf led a team, which advised Gallant Venture (with Rajah & Tann) on its purchase of a majority stake in Indonesia's largest automotive company, Indomobil Sukses Internasional.