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Reed Smith has secured a significant coup by unexpectedly convincing the previously sceptical Richards Butler Hong Kong partnership to agree to a full merger.
The two sides are putting the finishing touches to a deal that they hope to complete within the next two or three weeks.
"There had been a feeling that they hadn't wanted to combine with anyone. They're hugely profitable on their own and to overcome that is an amazing achievement, and most of the credit can be put down to [Reed Smith chairman] Greg Jordan," said a source.
The source added that Jordan had been instrumental in convincing the Hong Kong partners of the benefits of a full merger with Reed Smith rather than with any number of rival US and UK firms that have tried to woo the established Hong Kong business.
Richards Butler Hong Kong has always operated as a separate partnership from Richards Butler's Europe and Middle East operations.
Those Europe and Middle East operations agreed to merge with US firm Reed Smith without consultation with their Asian colleagues and insiders had expected Hong Kong to go it alone.
The Hong Kong office is a very profitable operation, with senior partners such as Chris Howse and David Norman understood to be earning more than 1m apiece. This compares favourably to the average profit per equity partner of both Richards Butler and Reed Smith - 500,000 and $940,000 (462,000) respectively in their most recently available figures.
Richards Butler Hong Kong could not be reached for comment. Reed Smith declined to comment.