Asia deals round-up: Hong Kong capital markets work keeps UK firms busy

IPOs, delistings and dim sum bonds in Hong Kong are keeping several firms busy, including Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May.

Freshfields and Slaughters, the two magic circle firms that helped leading Chinese e-commerce company float in Hong Kong in 2007, have advised the same client on its proposed privatisation by Alibaba Group and withdrawal from listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx).

The scheme of arrangement, which will see Alibaba Group offer up to $2.5bn for shares and other securities in, is subject to shareholder approval and court approval.

Freshfields advised Alibaba Group Holding Limited in the privatisation, both on the corporate side and the financing. The firm’s team is led by China chairman Teresa Ko and finance partners David Winfield and Howard Lam. Slaughters acted for, led by Hong Kong partner Benita Yu. Both Ko and Yu were involved in the $1.5bn IPO of on HKEx, representing issuer and underwriters respectively.

The in-house legal team led by Alibaba Group general counsel Timothy Steinert, who was a partner in Freshfields’ Hong Kong office prior to joining the Chinese company in 2007, has played an important role in the transaction too.

Freshfields’ Hong Kong capital markets team, led by Ko and Ken Martin, has also worked on the $580m IPO of Canadian oil explorer Sunshine Oilsands. The Calgary-based company has instructed Calgary-based McCarthy Tetrault to advise on Canadian law, with partners Rick Pawluk and Greg Turnbull leading the team.

US firms Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Canadian firm Blake Cassels & Graydon advised the underwriters in the IPO. Dominic Tsun and Li-Chien Wong are the lead partners on Kirkland’s team, and Alec Tracy is leading the Skadden team. The Blakes team is led by partners Pat Finnerty and Daniel McLeod.

The deal is the first listing in Hong Kong by a company incorporated in a Canadian jurisdiction where all assets and operations are based in Canada.

Eversheds is another UK firm that has recently advised on an IPO in Hong Kong. The firm’s Hong Kong team, led by partner Stephen Mok, advised the issuer – Chinese steelmaker Xiwang Special Steel – in its $171m IPO. Chinese firm Jingtian & Gongcheng, led by partner Ren Wei, and US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, headed by partner Chris Lin also acted for the issuer. Sidley Austin Hong Kong partners Constance Choy and Alex Lloyd together with Chinese firm Commerce & Finance’s partner Kong Xin advised the underwriters on this deal.

In addition to equity capital markets deals, the issuances of offshore renminbi-denominated bonds present a promising area in Hong Kong. It is understood that A&O and Clifford Chance are assisting Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the Middle East, with its plans to raise $7.5bn from issuing renminbi-denominated bonds.