Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy (A&O), Linklaters and Slaughter and May have been battling it out to win instructions to advise the Hong Kong government on its high-profile privatisation programme.
The Hong Kong government is poised to appoint a firm to advise on the first part of the HK$112bn (£9bn) asset sale, which involves the privatisation of the Hong Kong Airport Authority.
A&O is understood to be the frontrunner for the work. The magic circle firm has advised on a string of corporate finance deals in the region recently, including the Bank of China's initial public offering in July 2002.
The Hong Kong government has relationships with a number of firms, including Deacons, Herbert Smith, Johnson Stokes & Master and Richards Butler.
The airport privatisation plan was announced in August by the newly-appointed financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. Press reports suggest that the government expects to raise between HK$10bn (£8m) and HK$30bn (£24m) with the scheme.
It is understood that the privatisation programme will also include the disposal of other transport assets, including tunnels, bridges, the partially privatised Mass Transit Railway Corporation and the wholly-owned Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.
However, one source told The Lawyer that the government is likely to use different firms for each tranche of the privatisation.
"The government wants to be seen to be spreading work around," said the source.