Zhong Lun targets Chinese top three with 22-partner Kaiwen acquisition

Chinese firm Zhong Lun has bolstered its domestic practice through the acquisition of legacy Beijing firm Kaiwen, two years after the firm agreed a merger with Beijing-based capital markets boutique Grandway.

The large-scale bolt-on was approved by Zhong Lun’s partnership during its annual partnership conference earlier this month and will add a team of 22 partners and 140 staff to its roster.

Legacy Kaiwen merged with Beijing-based capital markets boutique Grandway at the beginning of 2012. The firm has now broken away from that deal to join with Zhong Lun.

Insiders attributed the split to differences in the partnership cultures and management styles between the two legacy firms.

The acquisition came as the Zhong Lun partnership also approved plans for a mass expansion programme, with new offices planned for key Chinese cities Chongqing, Qingdao and Suzhou.

Of the 22 partners to join the firm, eight join as senior equity partners, including Li Chongwen, Wang Jihong, Xiong Li and Deng Guolin, who were previously executive partners at Kaiwen. Around half of the partners will be based Beijing, with the remainder spread across Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing.

The team arrive with experience in capital markets, banking and finance, commercial litigation and real estate and construction. 

Corporate partner Xiong, who oversees the merged firm’s Chongqing office, will help Zhong Lun launch an office in the city later this year.

Zhong Lun has also hired a small team from Beijing-firm JunZeJun, led by partner Li Min, who is experienced in advising financial institutions, securities firms and funds mangers.

“The latest expansion will put Zhong Lun firmly in the top three position among Chinese firms in terms of revenue,” said a senior partner of Zhong Lun. “Our short-term goal is to continue to grow both our office network and areas of practices and to re-enforce our market position in China. There are more mergers and bolt-on deals in the pipeline.”

Zhong Lun has around 700 lawyers, including 200 partners, in 10 offices. Last March, the firm opened an office its tenth office in New York, its third location overseas after Tokyo and London (13 February 2012).

Over the past two years, it has also hired a number of senior-level partners from international firms, including Dechert’s Hong Kong managing partner Basil Hwang (13 January 2014) and former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Shanghai partner Carl Cheng (19 April 2012). In 2013, the firm reported total revenue of RMB1.03bn (£103m), up 8 per cent on 2012. The newly joined team is expected to add RMB100m to the firm’s annual turnover.