Chambers Asia Pacific (2013 edition)

The editorial on Rajah & Tann released by the Chambers Asia-Pacific guide is highlighted below:

Leading Firms: Dispute Resolution: Litigation: Singapore (Band 1)

 Leading Individuals: Andre Yeap SC (Band 2), Francis Xavier SC (Band 2), Mohammed Reza (Band U - Up & Coming)

THE FIRM As one of the largest litigation practices in Singapore, this heavyweight is renowned for its ability to manage complex, high-value and multi-jurisdictional disputes. The team wins particular praise from sources for its expertise in insolvency litigation and appellate cases. Recently, it defended Lehman Brothers Singapore in proceedings relating to its SGD10 billion secured note programme.

Sources say: "They know how to balance legal theory with the practicalities involved in enforcing the law." "Client service is first rate: extremely personable and approachable, despite being one of the largest firms in Singapore."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Francis Xavier SC heads the litigation department and is highly thought of amongst Singaporean advocates. "He is frank, very energetic, listens carefully, grasps things quickly and has a remarkable intellect and sense of logic," interviewees say.

Senior partner Andre Yeap SC is similarly well-regarded and described by commentators as "extremely smooth in his delivery in court and extremely realistic as an adviser of a client." Other sources comment: "He's to-the-point and insightful, as well as being able to get to the nub of the issue at hand."

Mohammed Reza enters the rankings this year having been praised by sources as "a user-friendly and brilliant lawyer." His recent representations include acting for Standard Chartered and Holcim (Singapore), amongst many other notable clients.


Leading Firms: Restructuring/Insolvency: Singapore (Band 1)

Leading Individuals: Eng Beng Lee SC (Band 1), Patrick Ang (Band 1), Lionel Tay (Band 2)

THE FIRM This highly dedicated restructuring and insolvency practice has extensive experience in advising clients on both contentious and transactional issues. It remains a favoured adviser to institutional lenders with interests in Singapore. Over the past year, the practice was appointed to the advisory panels of Credit Suisse and Barclays. Recent work highlights include acting as Singapore counsel to a group of bank lenders on the Torm Shipping restructuring. Besides its advice to creditors, the team is also acting for liquidators on the high-profile MF Global insolvency and for various Lehman Brothers entities across Asia.

Sources say: “Technically sound and able to anticipate clients' needs.”

KEY INDIVIDUALS Patrick Ang handles both transactional and litigious matters, and is "very decisive, with a good grasp of insolvency rules and regulations," according to clients. He recently advised Nortel entities across Asia on the USD427 million restructuring of intercompany debt.

Veteran litigator Lee Eng Beng SC is “always one step ahead of the others and can truly convince the court,” say clients. His proposed schemes were adopted in a recent Singapore Court of Appeal decision relating to schemes of arrangement for TT International's restructuring.

Lionel Tay “is very articulate and can size up a situation quickly and provide good guidance on how to approach it.” He continues to advise PwC in its capacity as liquidator and special accountants of certain Singapore-based companies on a range of disputes and investigations.


Leading Firms: Shipping: Litigation: Singapore (Band 1)

Leading Individuals: Kah Wah Leong (Band 1), Kian Sing Toh SC (Band 1), Winston Kwek (Band 1), Jainil Bhandari (Band 2), Ian Teo (Band 3)

THE FIRM With ten talented partners, this powerhouse has exceptional breadth and depth in dispute resolution matters in this field, and continues to play a role in many landmark cases. The team excels not only in Singapore matters, but is also very active regionally, with a presence in Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia. Recent highlights include representing Equatorial Marine Fuel in the 'Bunga Melati 5' case, an enormous bunker claim in which the team successfully overturned the High Court decision and set a new benchmark for standard of proof. Another notable development is the firm's increasing involvement in the insolvency field.

Sources say: "Very strong and resourceful." "A dominant firm in the dispute resolution market."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Toh Kian Sing SC combines deep academic knowledge with many years in practice. His recent highlights include a successful claim for damages against the operators of a vessel.

Winston Kwek rises to the top band this year in recognition of his strength in marine insurance and mortgage enforcement work. Highlights include acting for the creditors on a debt restructuring for a well-known maritime company.

Leong Kah Wah is well known for his expert handling of casualty, charter party, bill of lading and cargo damage cases. He was the lead partner in the 'Bunga Melati 5' case.

Marine insurance specialist Jainil Bhandari is especially active on work involving Malaysia, with sources confirming that "he is a go-to lawyer for cases with a Malaysia element." He is dual-qualified in Malaysia and Singapore.

Ian Teo is singled out for praise by clients, who say: "He is very knowledgeable, he has in-depth understanding of the Singapore legal world and his follow-up is always rapid." His main areas of focus are trading, dry shipping and international trade.


Leading Firms: TMT: Singapore (Band 1)

Leading Individuals: Rajesh Sreenivasan (Band 1), Steve Tan (Band 3 

THE FIRM This well-rounded TMT group has an excellent reputation. It has developed a more regional focus of late, having for example won a mandate to review the Brunei telecommunications regulatory framework. The team also represented Singapore Technologies Electronics in its acquisition of Nera Telecommunications, which has a network covering most Asia-Pacific countries. The firm's strength on the media side is indicated by high-profile client wins such as Facebook and Lucasfilm.

Sources say: “When it comes to TMT law, they are at the cutting edge. They do all they can to protect their client's interests.”

KEY INDIVIDUALS Rajesh Sreenivasan has a background in e-commerce, IT, telecoms and digital media. In addition to acting for multinational corporations, he has advised many state governments on the drafting of ICT and regulatory policies. Commentators also note that “he has a very approachable way of working with clients.”

Steve Tan has a strong media and technology practice. His previous role as in-house counsel for a Singapore technology company has provided him with an excellent understanding of IT. Tan's media clients include film producers and game developers. One client notes: “He is sharp and goes beyond our expectations of him as an external legal support.”


Leading Firms: Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration: Singapore (Band 2)

Leading Individuals: Yee Leong Chong (Band 2), Chong Boon Leong (Band 3)

THE FIRM This firm fields one of the finest arbitration practices on the scene, drawing on its impressive regional coverage and dispute resolution expertise. It frequently tackles large-scale and complex cases, particularly those involving energy and heavy civil engineering-related components. Key clients from the past year include Air Asia, the government of Laos, Komatsu and Capitaland.

Sources say: "They understand clients’ goals and positions, and direct their commercial savvy and strategic thinking there."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources note that Chong Yee Leong “stands out for his experience and abilities." Peers particularly note the activeness of his practice. His areas of expertise include infrastructure and energy-related matters.

Chong Boon Leong has more than 20 years of experience in the Singapore market, and is noted by peers for his cross-examination skills. His regional expertise gives the team a further edge in cross-border matters.


Leading Firms: Investment Funds: Singapore (Band 2)

Leading Individuals: Arnold Tan (Band 1), Anne Yeo (Band 3), Leong Lu Yueh (Band U -Up & Coming)

THE FIRM This team retains the breadth and depth of expertise to advise on all stages of the private investment fund cycle. It has seen an increase in hedge fund formation matters, a core area of strength for the group. Its cross-border capabilities are demonstrated by work such as advising Tahan Capital Management on the formation of a feeder fund which serves to admit US investors to a master entity holding USD390 million in assets. Other clients include Havenport Asset Management and Union Capital Management.

Sources say: “It is a blue-chip name in Singapore; very knowledgeable in funds.”

KEY INDIVIDUALS Arnold Tan continues to earn high praise from peers and clients alike for his versatile portfolio of funds work. “He understands and is able to co-ordinate work over several jurisdictions, including tax, regulatory and operational matters.” His practice covers the formation of both onshore and offshore funds, and regulatory advice on fund management. Another interviewee noted: “He has a strong relationship with the regulatory authorities, has sound judgement and gives solid advice.”

Leong Lu Yueh represents investment managers and funds. “She is very commercially oriented and gives incisive advice,” commented one source. Over the past year, Leong has acted for clients on the formation of, and investment in, a variety of fund entities.

Anne Yeo advises extensively on the formation, structuring and restructuring of private investment funds, and also assists fund managers with the preparation of regulatory submissions. She assisted in establishing a master fund for East Spring Investments' retail fund in Japan.


Leading Firms: Corporate/M&A: Domestic Firms: Singapore (Band 2)

Leading Individuals: Kian Hwee Goh (Band 1), Choo Hock Soon (Band 3)

THE FIRM Rajah & Tann combines a strong domestic practice with extensive cross-border experience in the region, including deals involving Indonesia and China. Recent highlights include advising CitySpring Infrastructure and CityNet Infrastructure Management on the latter's USD1.5 billion acquisition of businesses and assets from SingTel. The firm also advised insurance giant AXA on its successful USD494 million acquisition of HSBC's insurance operation. The firm's ability to take on more challenging work is also demonstrated by its experience in handling competitive takeovers. For example, it acted for Nomura Singapore on its USD176 million takeover bid for Portek. 

Sources say: "Comprehensive and thorough, as well as timely." 

KEY INDIVIDUALS Highly rated partner and seasoned strategist Goh Kian Hwee is known as "one of the leading corporate lawyers in Singapore." He was a lead partner on the CitySpring/CityNet matter, and also advised listed company SMB United on a rival takeover bid.

Soon Choo Hock is an active participant on M&A transactions, and has additional experience in the areas of finance and tax. He advised CapitaMalls on two separate joint ventures concerning large-scale site developments, valued at USD595 million and USD278 million respectively.


Leading Firms: Projects & Energy: Singapore (Band 2)

THE FIRM Rajah & Tann offers clients good regional expertise, and in the past year has worked on projects in Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam. While the department is best known for its projects and construction-related arbitration work, it is also well versed in tendering, development and project finance. Recent highlights include advising a developer on the SGD900 million development of a data centre park and chilled water plant. The firm's associated office Kamilah & Chong in Malaysia has also handled a number of instructions in the Malaysian power sector.

KEY INDIVIDUALS The key contact for this firm is head of department Chong Yee Leong.


Leading Firms: Banking & Finance: Domestic Firms: Singapore (Band 3)

Leading Individuals: Terence Choo (Band 3) Angela Lim (Band 3)

THE FIRM Established name Rajah & Tann acts for an impressive slate of banking clients both domestically and regionally, including lenders such as HSBC, United Overseas Bank and OCBC Bank. The team has a wide raft of experience that includes advising on asset financing, trade financing and Islamic financing. Alongside domestic work, the group represents clients on Hong Kong-related transactions and continues to expand its footprint through the opening of additional offices in Vietnam and Thailand. Cross-border work includes representing the lenders on an HKD18.8 billion bridging facility to finance the acquisition of a major retail mall.

Sources say: "They are able to give rigorous and practical advice."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Angela Lim is commended by sources as a "very proactive" partner, who is able to "balance the needs of the clients in order to make the process run more smoothly." She has considerable experience leading cross-border finance transactions. Clients include DBS Bank and OCBC Bank.

Terence Choo comes highly recommended by both lenders and borrowers. Recent highlights include acting for a group of banks as lead arrangers on a USD150 million revolving loan facility. Trade financing is another area of focus for him.


Leading Firms: Capital Markets: Domestic Firms: Singapore (Band 3)

Leading Individual: Chia Kim Huat (Band 2)

THE FIRM Rajan & Tann stands out for both domestic and cross-border capital markets work, with a growing network of offices in China and the rest of South-East Asia. Recent developments for the practice include panel appointments for Barclays and Credit Suisse, while the team has also acted for Fortis Healthcare, Gallant Venture and GuocoLand. In a recent highlight, it represented the latter in relation to an issue of shares and its USD89.6 million development project joint venture with the Employees Provident Fund of Malaysia, using a complex deal structure involving commercial SPVs.

Sources say: "I find them to be excellent; I would recommend them to anyone."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Chia Kim Huat heads the corporate and capital markets practice group at the firm, and is also noted for his strong China practice. He recently represented China Paper Holdings in a rights issue valued at SGD32.69 million.


Leading Firms: Tax: Domestic Firms: Singapore (Band 3)

Leading Individual: Ronald Choo (Band 3)

THE FIRM This practice has acquired additional firepower following the arrival of partner Jimmy Ooi to the tax group in 2011; he brings valuable experience from his previous role at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. The firm has the capacity to handle both corporate and private client tax work. Its advisory work covers tax treaties, income tax, GST, stamp duty and property tax issues. The team regularly assists trust funds and banks with creating tax-efficient structures and in administering assets.

Sources say: “They are professional and offer practical solutions.”

KEY INDIVIDUALS Ronald Choo heads the tax group and is known for his work with high net worth individuals and trusts. “Obliging and friendly, he always does his best to act for us as quickly as possible," said one interviewee. Choo also assists banks and financial institutions with the drafting and negotiation of documentation.


Leading Firms: Arbitration (International): Asia-Pacific Region (Band 3)

Leading Individuals: Chong Yee Leong (Band 4)

THE FIRM This Singapore-headquartered firm has recently boosted its regional presence, adding new offices in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos to its existing Shanghai office and associate office in Malaysia. It is well recognised for its arbitration offering in Singapore, and continues to gain traction on the international scene. It has attracted significant instructions from clients such as Trafigura, AirAsia, Vichitbhan Construction, CapitaLand and the government of Laos. The team's broad expertise covers energy, mining, construction and engineering, telecoms and government matters.

KEY INDIVIDUALS Chong Yee Leong heads the international arbitration practice and is a prominent figure in the region thanks to his years of experience in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Laos.