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Harneys in the News

Media coverage about the firm

The Lawyer Awards 2016: offshore winners

18 July 2016

Harneys wins its first Offshore Firm of the Year title in 2016 for consistent and impressive growth around the world while retaining a significant presence in its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Judges praised the way Harneys “stays hungry” for growth.

In the past two years Harneys has launched three offices, in Bermuda, Shanghai and Tokyo. The former was through a merger with local firm Hurrion & Associates, announced in September last year, while its Asian launches gave the firm representative bases in two jurisdictions in which many of its rivals are absent.

In Shanghai Harneys picked up Ogier’s Shanghai managing director Kristy Calvert to lead its new operation.

Managing partner Peter Tarn says the three launches were different in nature and in terms of the strategic reasoning.

Tokyo is really about building on a strong Japanese-Cayman-focused team in Asia and we have great strength in Hong Kong in terms of our Japanese staffing and product,” Tarn says. “Tokyo’s about building on that, having people on the ground and increasing leverage. It’s a really niche market in which we’re operating there, but it’s growing fast and has been incredibly successful.

Tarn says Shanghai has been a slower starter. Harneys has applied for a licence to practise law there but is still waiting for approval, meaning at present Shanghai is a representative office.

Shanghai is all about the potential we see in the PRC which builds on strength in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia,” he adds. “We’re in it for the long haul.

He says Bermuda was the hardest launch, as it was through a merger.

It’s easy to open an office and provide the services you already provide, but this is different in terms of providing advice in a new jurisdiction,” Tarn explains. However, he adds that several firms were open to the merger and Harneys has plans to expand the office further.

The firm has been one of the biggest hirers in the offshore market for the past few years and 2015 was no exception. Recruitment included a funds team led by Appleby’s former global funds head Ian Gobin in the Cayman Islands.

While expanding rapidly Harneys has managed to maintain high double-digit turnover growth. It says its Hong Kong revenue had nearly doubled and Cayman and London litigation revenues have more than doubled in the past two years.

Unlike several competitors, Harneys has also retained its fiduciary arm and it says turnover from the business grew by 11 per cent last year.

Client relationships and key deals

Key mandates in 2015 included advising Nasdaq-listed supply chain services and solutions provider UTi Worldwide on its $1.35bn (£1bn) acquisition by DSV for a cash consideration by way of statutory merger pursuant to the BVI’s merger code. Harneys partners Simon Hudd and Greg Boyd, assisted by associate George Weston, worked alongside Cravath Swaine & Moore on the transaction, which is one of the largest takeovers of a publicly listed BVI company.

In Cayman Harneys represented Chinese web services giant Baidu on the $2.5bn sale of its controlling stake in Qunar Cayman Islands to Ctrip.com International. The all share-swap deal represented an alliance between the two biggest players in China’s online travel agency market and took the combined market valuation of the two online travel companies to $15.6bn. Harneys partner Matt Roberts led the transaction with partner Ian Mann, counsel Raymond Ng and senior associate Jayesh Chatlani assisting.

The firm is also well-known for its litigation capabilities and is acting on the long-running Saad litigation for the joint official liquidators of SIFCO5. The case concerns allegations of fraud and unauthorised borrowing exceeding $9.2bn from over 100 banks globally, and is one of the highest profile and longest running disputes ever to be litigated before the Cayman Court.

Harneys partner Marc Kish and senior associate William Peake are involved in the case.

Tarn says Harneys’ deals are notable for their variety and innovation.

It doesn’t matter how many zeros you’ve got on the end of things, it doesn’t matter who’s involved when it comes to the hard fact – have you added value?” he argues. “Our geographical spread gives us a fair chance at picking up some interesting transactions. A solid institutional client base also increases the chance of getting these interesting deals.

Judges’ comments and reaction

Another year of strong performance,” commented one judge, while another said the firm was “dominant in its markets, innovative, stays hungry and continues to see profitability growth”.

Tarn says the reaction to Harneys’ win across the firm was excitement, with many lawyers and staff finding out even before he had left the ceremony at the Intercontinental O2 hotel.

This is an award from our peers, from people who matter to us,” Tarn says. “The Lawyer Awards matter. It gives us instant recognition with clients that maybe they’re not the only people who have seen the firm as somebody they want to partner with.

This writeup was originally published on The Lawyer.