Norton Rose Middle East links spark Tokyo launch

Norton Rose is to open an office in Tokyo before Christmas to take advantage of Japanese companies investing in the Middle East.

While no launch date has been set, the office will support Japanese-backed projects in the Middle East and will target sponsors and financial institutions, as first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (4 October).

Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr said: “The establishment of an office in Tokyo will enable us to push forward our strategic coverage of the principal worldwide financial and business centres. As the financial centre of the world’s second-biggest economy, Tokyo plays a key role in this strategy.”

The firm’s Moscow head Chris Viner will become the chief at the new Tokyo office. Currently, there is no replacement for Viner in Moscow. Viner, a corporate finance partner, will be joined by banking partner Jeremy Gibb, who is currently based in Norton Rose’s London office, but who has previously worked out of the Hong Kong office.

Principal client targets for the new office will be Japanese trading houses and Japanese banks, including export credit institutions. It will also target M&A, AIM listings and IPOs. Key areas will include corporate finance, transport, energy, financial institutions and technology.

Projects chief Jeffery Barratt said: “We have a well-established projects practice in the Middle East, backed by Japanese banks and investors, and the establishment of the Tokyo office demonstrates our commitment to this area.”

Norton Rose’s decision to move into the Japanese market has been talked about since the firm opened its Hong Kong office in the 1970s, but the firm took no action due to the expense and lack of Japanese clients. However, the firm’s Middle East practice transformed the client situation, with associates being seconded to Japanese companies, thus forging relationships.

Norton Rose is the latest firm to announce its intentions to boost its presence in Japan. Earlier this year Allen & Overy launched a Japanese law practice in its Tokyo office after hiring Japanese-qualified lawyer Nobuo Nakata from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in March this year.