An increasing number of the Top 30 Chinese firms are eyeing opportunities in the UK driven by outbound investment of their Chinese clients, The Lawyer China Top 30 2017 research finds.
The amount of foreign investment by Chinese companies has been surging in recent years. According to figures unveiled in a recent United Nations report, in 2016, after a 44 per cent increase, the total reached a record $183bn, making China the second-largest global investor after the US, which invested $299bn.
China’s leading law firms have responded by joining global networks, entering alliances with foreign firms, opening overseas offices and hiring more internationally trained lawyers.
The Lawyer China Top 30 2017 report shows that 19 of the largest 30 Chinese firms by revenue now have one or more offices overseas (including Hong Kong).
While Hong Kong remains a key international location for the leading Chinese firms, some firms have set their sights further afield and established bases in the UK and US, the two primary markets for global financial and legal services.
Despite the uncertainty over Brexit, the UK in particular has become a popular destination among leading Chinese firms in the past year. Shanghai-based Llinks opened a small office in London in July, following the example of King & Wood Mallesons and Zhong Lun. It is the third Top 30 Chinese firm to be present in the UK market.
Llinks’ Shanghai rival AllBright has also been exploring ways to launch in London. It is understood that the firm is in the late stages of finalising an association with a City firm, through which it will add a presence in London.
“We don’t want to have small marketing offices in foreign jurisdictions. We need real capability and strong local law support to help our Chinese clients’ projects, investments, transactions and disputes in the UK and Europe,” says AllBright’s managing partner Wu Mingde.
The firm is also seeking an American associate in the US, but Wu says the London deal will come first.
Shenzhen-based Guanghe is another newcomer to the UK market. It has recently formed a strategic alliance with Birmingham-based Browne Jacobson to facilitate Chinese outbound matters into the UK. Guanghe managing partner Peter Tong expects the firm to launch a small, one-partner office in London following the alliance.
DeHeng, the seventh largest Chinese firm by revenue, already has offices in Brussels, Chicago, Dubai, Hague, New York and Paris. Its managing partner Gavin Sun told The Lawyer that the firm is actively looking at options of launching an office in London.
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