June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Sullivan & Cromwell LLP hired Ng Kay Ian and Gwen Wong from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, making it the seventh New York law firm to expand in the Chinese city of Hong Kong since late 2009.
Ng, who had been the Hong Kong managing partner of London- based Freshfields, is the third partner from the firm to leave for a Wall Street rival after its Beijing managing partner moved to Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and the head of its China corporate practice joined Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in the past year.
“Sullivan & Cromwell has been deeply committed to the Asia-Pacific region for many decades,” Chairman Joseph C. Shenker said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Kay Ian’s outstanding reputation in the Hong Kong capital markets and M&A practice areas makes him a natural fit to expand our practice in Greater China. We are equally pleased that Gwen will be joining us in Beijing to strengthen our presence there.”
Law firms from the U.S. and China have been expanding in Hong Kong, home to the world’s largest market for initial share sales, and as mergers and acquisitions involving Chinese companies listed there gather pace. That has challenged the traditional dominance of London-based firms in the former British colony.
“International capital markets tend to follow U.S. practices and disclosure standards so it make sense that the New York firms should be the leading firms in this area in Asia as well,” said Antony Dapiran, who joined Davis Polk from Freshfields. “This is just the latest move in what has been a major shift in the legal landscape here in Hong Kong.”
Sullivan & Cromwell opened its Hong Kong office in 1992 and its Beijing office in 1999, according to the statement. The firm said it now plans to start a practice offering advice on Hong Kong law. Sullivan & Cromwell, founded in 1879, is the second- ranked legal adviser on mergers and acquisitions this year, according to Bloomberg data.
Ng had advised on more than 25 IPOs and securities offerings of companies including Bank of China Ltd., Air China Ltd. and China Telecom Corp., according to his profile on Freshfields’ website. Ng, who is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, is qualified to practice law in Hong Kong, England and Wales, and Malaysia, Sullivan & Cromwell said.
Wong was promoted to counsel last year by Freshfields. She has advised on Hong Kong IPOs and listings on the International Board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange and on spinoff listings on the Australian Stock Exchange, according to the statement.
Freshfields announced June 10 it would relocate its global co-head of international capital markets, Stephen Revell, to Hong Kong from London.
“He will add additional capacity to the strong local team which has already acted on several significant IPOs this year including MGM, Samsonite, Shanghai Pharma and Hutchison Port Holdings,” the firm said in a statement. Senior associate David Cotton also will relocate, it said.
Freshfields also said last month it was hiring Howard Lam from London-based Linklaters LLP in Hong Kong.
Freshfields has offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo with a combined 238 lawyers, or 8.4 percent of its total, as of the end of April.
“The U.S. firms have realized that Asia in general, and China in particular, is a key center,” said Rob Ashworth, Freshfields Asia managing partner.
“To some extent these firms are playing catch up and are now aggressively targeting individuals at long established firms in the region,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions. Freshfields has a well-developed practice and a deep pipeline of talented people in China, he said.
Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP are the other New York firms that have expanded in Hong Kong to tap legal work related to China.
--With assistance from Debra Mao in Hong Kong and Sophia Pearson in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Ben Richardson, Stephen Farr
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