Ashurst moves to vote on Blake Dawson tie-up

A proposed tie-up deal between Ashurst and Australia’s Blake Dawson, which will create a 31-partner practice across Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo and Papua New Guinea, is expected to face a vote among Ashurst’s partners before the end of September.

A proposed tie-up between Ashurst and Australia’s Blake Dawson, which will create a 31-partner practice across Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo and Papua New Guinea, is expected to face a vote among Ashurst’s partners before the end of September.

The proposed merger plan is seen as an attempt to boost Ashurst’s access to the Asian market. The joined force will add Shanghai and Papua New Guinea to Ashurst’s global network and will strengthen its existing Singapore and Tokyo operations. Its current 18-partner team will be joined by the 13 partners from Blakes’ Asia offices.

The opening of Ashurst’s Hong Kong office, in association with Jackson Woo & Associates, in 2008, and its strategic alliance with Chinese law firm Guantao mark a new phase of its growth in Asia. The firm’s revenue in the region rose by 50 per cent in the 2010-11 financial year, making up 7 per cent of global income.

It is understood that the proposed merger plan will initially apply to Blake Dawson’s offices in Asia (ex Australia) and Ashurst’s offices in the region. While the Australian operations of Blakes will remaind a separate partnership, which will be a stakeholder of the joint venture, the entire firm is expected to operate under the brand of Ashurst.

The possibility of a full merger globally between the two is also on the horizon, when the joint venture reached the three-year mark and subject to several convergence conditions.

Ashurst declined to comment. However, a partner from its Chinese strategic alliance firm Guantao said that she wasn’t informed about this proposal yet but welcomed the tie-up as it would create greater synergy and more opportunities between the markets in Asia, Australia and Europe.

If the proposed merger goes ahead, Ashurst will become the fifth UK firm to enter Australia, following Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and Norton Rose. Herbert Smith is also understood to be eyeing up opportunities Down Under.