Wikborg Rein applies for second China licence in Beijing

Norwegian firm Wikborg Rein will soon expand its China presence to Beijing on the back of increasing revenues from the jurisdiction.

The firm is in the process of applying for a licence to open an office in the Chinese capital, its second base in the country. The firm has been in China since 2002 when it opened in Shanghai.

The firm plans to relocate Singapore-based senior lawyer Steffen Pedersen to Beijing to head up the new operation once it receives regulatory approval. Peterson joined the firm in 2011 from Ince & Co, where he had worked at the UK firm’s Hong Kong and Shanghai offices. He will be supported by several Chinese and foreign lawyers in Beijing.

Wikborg Rein’s China expansion is led by international managing partner Geir Sviggum, who previously headed the Shanghai office from 2008 to 2013.

“The China practice is an incredible growth story for us. It has been fast-growing, and more importantly, growing profitably,” said Sviggum.

“Over the past two years, we have developed a significant Chinese client portfolio. The opening of the Beijing office is mainly to be close to our new client base, Chinese companies, which are mostly headquartered in Beijing,” he added.

About 40 per cent of the firm’s China revenues are now related to Chinese companies, such as state-owned banks, ship owners and builders as well as the big oil and gas companies. For example, the firm is currently acting for China’s HNA Group in UK High Court proceedings over a charter dispute. It has also been recently instructed as lead counsel by one of the three Chinese oil majors for an offshore project in Brazil.

“From 2008 to 2013, through the worst crisis in international shipping for decades, our revenues from international offices grew by 220 per cent. We have seen the most explosive growth in London and China,” said Sviggum.

According to The Lawyer’s 2014 European 100, which is due to be published on Monday (12 May), Wikborg Rein’s global turnover in 2013 stood at NOK795m (£79.7m). Sviggum indicated that the firm’s international offices contributed around 20 per cent of the total revenue.

Wikborg Rein has close to 20 lawyers in Shanghai and expects the new Beijing office to become fully functional by early next year.

In Greater China, the firm’s main international competitor Ince & Co opened its third office in Beijing in 2012 (25 July 2012), while Holman Fenwick Willan has bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.