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​Offshore disputes in Asia: Asia Legal Business report

Publication Date:
19 August 2016

Offshore disputes in Asia continue to increase, largely fuelled by China, according to a report by Asia Legal Business. Ian Mann, head of Harneys’ Hong Kong litigation and restructuring practice, shared comments with Asia Legal Business, click here to read the full interview

Debt restructuring

Debt restructuring is a major driver for Harneys’ Asian business, says Ian Mann, head of Harneys’ offshore litigation and restructuring department in Hong Kong. “We are seeing an explosion in the amount of high net worth disputes and contentious trusts work concerning BVI, Cayman and Bermuda companies,” Mann notes. “This is because of the massive debt burden, coupled with the slowing of the Chinese economy.”

In terms of restructuring, Harneys has acted for a number of complex and high profile schemes of arrangement including working with Alibaba in a leading decision in 2012 in a $2.2 bn undertaking acting for Alibaba.com; working with LDK Solar to win a number of awards totaling US$450 million at the end of 2014 and acting for a creditor group that accounted for the largest class of senior noteholders; working with global brand L’Oreal in its takeover of household brand Magic Holdings in a $849 million deal in mid-2014; and acted for Kaisa in a fight against a group of creditors in a $2.7bn action in 2016.

These mandates may be the tip of the iceberg. Mann says he expects to see more of such work in Hong Kong and the PRC in the next 12 months.

Asia growth

Harneys’ Mann says that going forward he sees plenty of room for growth in the Asian market. “We are seeing the highest growth rate in human history, while at the same time the highest debt burden in human history, combined with a market where people do not necessarily value lawyers or have an in-depth understanding of the services they are able to provide,” he notes.

“Growth for offshore lawyers will continue to come from the established financial centres, however the environment is much more competitive,” Mann says. “Service standards continue to be a differentiator, as does technology. For offshore litigation growth, the use of much better technology must be introduced to the offshore courts of Bermuda, BVI and the Cayman Islands as a matter of urgency. Embracing that technology will in itself drive growth.”

Harneys continues to expand with new lawyers from its offshore jurisdictions, he adds.

“In Asia, we are known for our advice on a growing number of high profile transactions,” Mann says. “In recent years, the firm has grown to become one of the largest offshore firms in Hong Kong, and, combined with its Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai offices, has a strong presence in Asia.”