UK firms in Singapore shift tactic to weather Asian crisis

UK City firms in Singapore are adopting divergent strategies in response to the Asian downturn which continues to eat into profits.

Linklaters is trying to sub-let half of its office space at 9 Raffles Place, after a reassessment of its boom-time expansion plans. Meanwhile City rivals Freshfields and Lovell White Durrant are expanding.

Tony Grundy, managing partner of Linklaters' 24-lawyer Singapore office, said that extra space had been taken 14 months ago and that it was now not needed. He said there was “virtually no financing at the moment”, adding that if Indonesia exploded again, all the restructuring work would come to a halt.

Linklaters had entered into negotiations with US firm Vinson & Elkins to sublet its spare office space, but Grundy said the two firms failed to reach an agreement over the terms.

Freshfields has reclaimed office space in the Hitaachi Tower it had sublet to Vinsons.

Roger Dyer, managing partner of Freshfields' 20-lawyer Singapore office, said extra space was needed just to cope with the existing number of fee earners in the office.

But he added that he wanted to recruit at least three more senior lawyers in projects, finance and corporate restructuring, but was struggling to find the right people.

Vinsons has now taken over the offices of rival Chadbourne & Parke, which pulled out of the city in September.

Lovells opened its Singapore office in May of this year. Partner Richard Shean said the firm proposed to expand the office even further.