Kirkland scoops role on first Chinese Icsid arbitration

Kirkland & Ellis has been instructed by Chinese insurer, Ping An Life Insurance Company, in a landmark arbitration case against the Kingdom of Belgium, believed to be the first such case to be filed by a Chinese company at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (Icsid).

London arbitration head Chris Colbridge is leading the team, which includes associate James Hayton, as Ping An seeks to recoup the losses it sustained following the collapse of Belgian-Dutch bank Fortis.

In 2007 the company invested RMB23.9bn (£2.3bn) in Fortis, which was nationalised a year later. Ping An wrote off RMB22.8bn as a result.

The company held a 5 per cent shareholding in Fortis and had opposed the Belgian government’s 2009 plans to sell off the financial institution to BNP Paribas. Ping An also shelved its proposed acquisition of 50 per cent of Fortis Investment Management.

At the time of the collapse of Fortis, Ping An said in a statement: “The group will further review its overseas investment strategy, procedures and risk control management from the experiences and lessons learnt from the incident.”

The Icsid claim was filed last week (19 September). Belgium has not yet instructed counsel.

Ping An is understood to have been negotiating with the Belgian government over compensation, but the negotiations have failed.

Eversheds arbitration partner Andy Moody said: “This case may turn out to be the first of many future claims commenced by Chinese investors as they increasingly make investments outside China and recognise that they may try to use bilateral investment treaties to help protect those investments against government interference or expropriation.”