Freshfields misses out on Alibaba IPO pot of gold

The New York IPO of Chinese retail and social media hub Alibaba last week was the largest-ever flotation, raising $25bn (£15.3m). And so the law firms advising Alibaba also picked up a chunky reward, sharing out $15.8m in fees.

But one firm was curiously absent from that list. Despite acting on Alibaba’s much smaller Hong Kong listing in 2007 and its subsequent 2012 delisting, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was not involved this time around.

Although the magic circle firm is currently in a flurry of Stateside expansion, hiring a number of top US partners, Alibaba’s move of listing venue from Hong Kong to New York meant it was looking for an adviser with more US clout. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett was the lucky firm, pocketing the lion’s share of legal fees for its work.

Maybe in the future Freshfields will have more chance on such transactions. After all, its hires have included partners from Wachtell Lipton and Skadden, Shearman & Sterling and Fried Frank – all within the last month. And as The Lawyer highlighted yesterday, the magic circle firm is understood to have flexed its lockstep to do so.

The silver lining for Freshfields is that back home it continues to pick up the big mandates. Just yesterday it was appointed by Tesco as the retailer scrutinises its profit overstatement.

Meanwhile back in Asia, Chinese firm Fangda Partners won the lead PRC role for Alibaba. Fangda is just one of the firms highlighted in our exclusive China Elite report on the development of the PRC legal market and its growing international presence. Download it now to find out all you need to know about the Chinese legal market.

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