Australia’s AAR follows Rio Tinto into Mongolia

Australian firm Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR) has opened a representative office in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.

AAR has reported intensified levels of work in the country’s burgeoning resources industry. The firm is currently advising a range of international companies in the region, including long-standing client Rio Tinto, whose joint venture Mongolian Oyu Tolgoi project is the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold mine.

In the past few weeks, the firm had nine partners from Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong meeting and working with clients on various projects in Ulaanbaatar.

“We’ve been undertaking work in Mongolia for almost a decade, but it’s only in the past 12 months when the level of work and client demands have really reached a point to suggest that the time is right for us to have a formal presence in the country,” said Brisbane-based energy and resources partner Erin Feros, who is also a member of the firm’s board.

Feros has been a lead partner of the firm’s Mongolia interest group and has been driving the process of the Mongolian launch.

The new office has a primary focus on the energy and resources sectors, but will continue expanding its representation in corporate, capital markets, construction, infrastructure and project finance matters.

Initially, there will be no resident partner in the office, although Hong Kong-based partner David Wenger will be chief representative of the Ulaanbaatar office. It will mainly function as a working station for partners and lawyers travelling from other AAR offices. In addition to hiring several local legal staff in Ulaanbaatar, the firm’s Beijing and Hong Kong office will also provide staffing support regularly.

“Instead of putting one partner on the group to look after everything, we’ve decided to have a number of relationship partners with different clients to share their time in the new office. It’s a model that suits what we’re currently doing there,” said Feros, who will regularly travel to Ulaanbaatar.

The IMF Predicts growth in the Mongolian economy to be faster than that of China in 2011. It is estimated that the country, which has vast mineral reserves remaining to be mapped, will attract 30 to 40 strategic assets and projects during the next 12 to 18 months.

Hogan Lovells, US firm Anderson & Anderson and Chinese firm Lehman Lee & Xu already have offices in Ulaanbaatar. DLA Piper entered the market earlier this year through a tie-up with local firm C&G Partners (24 March 2011).