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Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has obtained the regulatory approval to open a representative office in Beijing, which will be led by the firm’s former chair Peter Robinson.
The new office, the firm’s first presence in mainland China and third in Asia, will be operational from May and will focus on advising Chinese clients on their offshore investments. Initially the office will be led by partner Robinson and of counsel Justin Sun who has also been heavily involved in the Beijing launch.
The development comes following the firm’s unsuccessful application for a QFLP licence in Singapore (19 February 2012).
Robinson has been on secondment in Shanghai with one of BLP’s clients Tesco as the acting head of legal in China since May 2012 (18 May 2012). It is understood that Robinson will be dedicated to the head of office role once Tesco has appointed a new head of legal in China.
“China is a leading player in the world economy and is continuing to grow at a faster rate than more mature economies. Establishing our first office in mainland China is a key part of our strategy to ensure we are on the ground in the markets where our clients are based or are looking to invest,” Robinson said in a statement.
Corporate head John Bennett in London, who also chairs its China business committee, said the Beijing opening is another step in the firm’s China strategy.
“We are taking a step-by-step and patient approach for growth in China,” he said. “The opening, in a sense, is a step in the process of growing our China practice, which we are already doing.”
Bennett noted that the firm’s China business committee, consisting of 10 core members across its network, was set up a year and a half ago to execute its strategy, around the same time as the launch of the firm’s Hong Kong office (17 June 2011).
“The Beijing office will support the continued expansion of our work for Chinese clients who are increasing their offshore investments to make them more competitive globally, to secure supplies of natural resources, technology and expertise, and to help them diversify their portfolios,” Bennett said.
Some of the recent work the firm has done for its Chinese clients include acting for China-based companies PCM/Nexteer and AVIC Automotive on the international merger control aspects of AVIC’s acquisition of PCM/Nexteer, and advising Chinese aircraft lessor ICBC Financial Leasing in connection with its fundraising to acquire portfolios of aircraft leased to a wide variety of airlines. The firm has also picked up several advisory roles to Chinese technology giant Huawei for its European matters.
It has made a significant investment into developing its Asia practices in recent years. Its first Asia office was opened in Singapore in 2007 followed by an office in Hong Kong in 2011. According to managing partner Neville Eisenberg, BLP’s strategy of focusing growth in emerging markets has already paid dividends, as the firm has seen 71 per cent growth in its international revenues over the last three years.
The firm currently has 36 lawyers in Asia, including 13 partners.