Asia Pacific Legal 500 (2016 Edition)

Rajah & Tann has maintained its rankings across practices with an additional ranking this year as the only Singapore firm to be ranked for international arbitration under the Regional International Arbitration category. 

The coverage includes Rajah & Tann Singapore, Rajah & Tann Thailand, Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers, Assegaf Hamzah & Partners and Christopher & Lee Ong. 


Editorials & Ranking

The relevant extracts from the Asia Pacific Legal 500 editorial are as follows:


Rajah & Tann 

Regional International Arbitration (Tier 3)

Rajah & Tann LLP has one of the leading practices in Singapore in terms of strength in depth and breadth of expertise in high-end matters. It is also able to call upon the knowledge of individuals within its sizeable network of offices (and alliances with local firms), which spans South East Asia, including countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. In Singapore, Andre Yeap SC’s team has a strong track-record representing both states and investors in the investment treaty arena. On the international commercial arbitration side, it acts for parties from all over the world on matters spanning a broad spectrum of industries, with arbitrations seated in Asia and beyond. Further afield, Logan Leung and Chau Huy Quang are names to note in Vietnam. 


Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP

International Arbitration (Tier 2)
Leading Individuals: Francis Xavier SC, Andre Yeap SC

Rajah & Tann LLP’s team has a strong track-record in high-stakes commercial arbitrations, spanning a wide range of areas, including shipping and insolvency. Kelvin Poon is representing a German technology company in a €100m joint venture dispute. Elsewhere, investment treaty arbitrations are a particular strong suit of the practice. Andre Yeap SC’s group includes the ‘exceptionally bright’ Paul Tan and recent hire Tan Chuan Thye SC, who joined from Stamford Law Corporation. 


Banking and finance: Local firms (Tier 2)
Leading Individual(s): Choo Hock Soon

The ‘client-focused’ team at Rajah & Tann LLP shines in high-end domestic and cross-border transactions, acting for borrowers and lenders. In 2014, Angela Lim, Tan Shu Fern, Shemane Chan and Tan Suyin acted for Panca Amara Utama in financing the $800m development of a greenfield ammonia production plant in Indonesia. On the lender side, Lim led the advice to a syndicate of international banks in relation to S$2.1bn syndicated revolving credit facilities to Singtel Group. The group has notable regulatory capabilities, where Regina Liew is singled out for her ‘strong technical skills’. 


Capital Markets: Local firms (Tier 2)
Leading Individual(s): Kim Huat Chia

Rajah & Tann LLP’s ‘strong, responsive team’ handled five IPOs in 2014. It also worked with other offices within the firm’s regional network to act as issuer’s counsel in Japfa’s S$1.38bn IPO and listing on the SGX main board. In addition to equity transactions, the practice is recommended for debt work, structured finance and securitisations. Another area of strength is in REITs and business trusts, where practitioners act for both issuers and underwriters. Key individuals in the group include Serene Yeo, Chia Kim Huat and Evelyn Wee. 


Corporate and M&A: Local firms (Tier 2)

Rajah & Tann LLP has a strong track record in both public and private M&A, and leverages its extensive regional network of offices and associations with other firms across South East Asia and China to provide a full service to clients on cross-border matters. It also has dedicated Singapore-based desks focusing on Japan and South Asia transactions. Reflecting the bench strength of the heavyweight team in Singapore, 55 lawyers specialise in M&A, while 30 advise on related matters such as competition, regulatory and insurance issues. Goh Kian Hwee, Lawrence Tan and Serene Yeo are leading the advice to United Overseas Bank in its proposed acquisition of Far Eastern Bank. Other notable individuals in the team include Abdul Jabbar Bin Karam Din, Cynthia Goh and Desmond Wee.


Dispute Resolution: Local firms (Tier 1)
Leading Individuals: Francis Xavier SC, Andre Yeap SC

Rajah & Tann LLP has ‘some of the best lawyers in the region; they are quick, commercial and practical’. With a deep bench of Singapore-based practitioners, and an extensive regional network, it is well placed to handle domestic and cross-border disputes, across areas such as banking and finance, shareholders’ disputes and corporate insolvency. Francis Xavier SC is representing White Energy Company in a $750m cross-border joint venture dispute. Patrick Ang is defending Standard Chartered in litigation arising from the multibillion-dollar fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff. Lee Eng Beng SC has ‘a sharp legal mind’, and Andre Yeap SC, Danny Ong and ‘leading financial services lawyer’ K Muralidharan Pillai are also recommended. Tan Chuan Thye SC joined from Stamford Law Corporation, and Mohammed Reza moved to JWS Asia Law Corporation. 


Employment: Local firms (Tier 1)
Leading Individual(s): Desmond Wee

Rajah & Tann LLP acts for clients such as Hewlett-Packard and Procter & Gamble. The sizable team includes Francis Xavier SC, who heads the contentious side of the practice, and Desmond Wee, who leads in non-contentious work. K Muralidharan Pillai recently defended AXA against breach of duty, defamation and malicious falsehood claims made by an ex-director.


Intellectual Property: Local firms (Tier 2)
Leading Individual: Kok Keng Lau

Department head Lau Kok Keng, Nicholas Lauw and Wendy Low are stand-out practitioners at Rajah & Tann LLP. The former advised the Singapore Sports Council on Southeast Asian Games matters, including logo registration. The firm is adept in local and cross-border trade mark and patent disputes.


Projects and Energy: Local firms (Tier 1)

Rajah & Tann LLP’s wide-ranging practice includes areas such as mining, infrastructure, oil and gas, and power. The team is regularly sought after to advise on matters ranging from inception and development of projects to financing and disputes for a broad base of regional and international clients. Shemane Chan, Angela Lim, Tan Suyin and Tan Shu Fern were the key partners involved in advising PAU on a circa-$800m greenfield ammonia plant in Indonesia, including assisting with the procurement structure and negotiating project finance. Andre Yeap SC and Soh Lip San jointly lead the team. 


Real Estate and Construction: Local firms (Tier 1)

Andre Yeap SC and Soh Lip San jointly lead Rajah & Tann LLP’s construction practice, which has a strong focus on disputes, and spans projects involving land reclamation, oil and gas, and transport infrastructure. Margaret Chin and Elsa Chai head the real estate group, where expertise includes investments, financing, joint ventures and en bloc transactions. In 2014, Lim Mei Ann acted for the vendor in the S$170m sale and leaseback of a REIT. 


Restructuring and Insolvency: Local firms (Tier 1)
Leading Individuals: Patrick Ang, Eng Beng Lee SC

Rajah & Tann LLP’s sector expertise in areas such as shipping, energy and financial services strengthens its capabilities in large, complex mandates. Danny Ong is leading the team’s advice to the liquidators of Dynamic Oil Trading, while Sim Kwan Kiat is acting for PT Bumi Resources and its Singapore subsidiaries in a high-profile debt restructuring; both matters have cross-border complexities.


Shipping: Local firms (Tier 1)
Leading Individuals: Leong Kah Wah, Kian Sing Toh SC

Rajah & Tann LLP successfully acted for Transocean Oil in the Court of Appeal. Toh Kian Sing SC leads the 15-partner team, which is ‘undisputedly’ a ‘market leader’. Leong Kah Wah, Jainil Bhandari and Ian Teo are esteemed. Kendall Tan is ‘exceptionally knowledgeable’ in both dry and wet matters. 


TMT: Local firms (Tier 1)
Leading Individuals: Rajesh Sreenivasan, Steve Tan

Rajah & Tann LLP provides ‘one of the best legal service experiences’. The team thrived on data protection matters during 2014 and 2015, and in this context, Lionel Tan advised Fitness First on compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act. Practice head Rajesh Sreenivasan is highly regarded and Steve Tan’s ‘expertise is infectious’. Clients include Red Bull Media House and Google Asia Pacific. 

Rajah & Tann Thailand

Leading Lawyer(s): Surasak Vajasit - Banking and Finance, Corporate and M&A (including Capital Markets), Restructuring and Insolvency


Dispute Resolution (Tier 2)

Rajah & Tann (Thailand) Limited successfully represented Philip Morris in a customs dispute, which included an unprecedented award in favour of the tobacco importer. The group has also handled several employment disputes. Surasak Vajasit heads the team following his arrival from Hunton & Williams, and Ittichai Prasongprasit was recently promoted to partner.


TMT (Tier 3) 

Rajah & Tann (Thailand) Limited advises on e-commerce operations, data protection and privacy matters, regulatory compliance and licensing issues. The team is representing a major mobile operator in administrative court and arbitration proceedings. Supawat Srirungruang and Saroj Jongsaritwang co-lead the team.


Banking and Finance (Tier 3) 

Rajah & Tann (Thailand) Limited frequently advises international lenders on the ship financing for vessel acquisitions. Surasak Vajasit, who joined from Hunton & Williams, is recommended. 


Assegaf Hamzah & Partners

Aviation (Tier 1) 

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners has ‘strong industry knowledge’ and is well versed in air accident law, handling various aviation-related disputes. Garmin, Garuda Indonesia and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore are notable clients; highlights included acting for the latter in bankruptcy proceedings against Mandala. Eri Hertiawan and Yogi Marsono are the key practitioners.


Banking & Finance (Tier 1)
Leading Lawyer(s): Ahmad Fikri Assegaf

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners’ ‘five-star’ team advised a syndicate of banks, including BBNI, BMRI and ANZ, on a $381 revolving credit facility, and also acted for DBS Bank in a Rp1.6bn issuance of negotiable certificates of deposit (NCDs). The ‘gifted’ Ibrahim Sjarief Assegaf ‘understands commercial matters’ and ‘provides workable advice on the best possible legal arrangement’. Managing partner Ahmad Fikri Assegaf and Yanu Wiriasmoko are also leading figures.


Capital Markets (Tier 1)
Leading Lawyers: Ahmad Fikri Assegaf, Bono Daru Adji

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners has considerable expertise in domestic and cross-border debt offerings, both public and private, and also handles equity matters, including rights issues. Highlights included acting for Tower Bersama Infrastructure in a $350m notes issue; advising Japfa on its $198m IPO; and handling a private placement of notes worth $103m for MedcoEnergi. Bono Daru Adjii and Putu Suryastuti are the key contacts. 


Corporate and M&A (Tier 1)
Leading Lawyer(s): Ahmad Fikri Assegaf

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners’ ‘top-class’ group acted for XL Axiata in its $577m sale of 3,500 telecoms towers to STP, advising on due diligence and handling transaction documents from numerous bidders. Ahmad Fikri Assegaf and foreign counsel Valerie Ngooi also advised Tara Cell (now Komet Infra Nusantara) on Nusantara Infrastructure’s £110m investment into the company. Eko Basyuni heads the practice. 


Dispute Resolution (Tier 1)

At Assegaf Hamzah & Partners, Chandra Hamzah and Eri Hertiawan successfully represented President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the Central Jakarta District Court, in a case of national importance challenging the legitimacy of the 2014 presidential election. The firm also acted successfully for the World Bank in a $1.3m claim brought by 22 private individuals relating to the Kedung Ombo dam, and defended StemCord against negligence claims alleging incorrect storage of cord blood. Ahmad Maulana and Yogi Marsono are other notable practitioners. 


Employment (Tier 2)

Headed by Ahmad Maulana, Assegaf Hamzah & Partners’ team is experienced across the full spectrum of non-contentious matters, and has also handled numerous employment-related disputes. Recent work includes advising on applications for work visas, negotiations with labour unions, and representing employers in legal actions concerning fraud. 


Projects & Energy (Tier 3)

The team at Assegaf Hamzah & Partners ‘provides advice that is easy to apply, is always updated on new regulations and continuously helps to monitor progress’. Ahmad Fikri Assegaf is ‘an excellent negotiator, who is patient and always willing to clarify matters’; Kanya Satwika is another key practitioner. Notable clients include Jakarta MRT, Korea Eximbank and BNP Paribas. 


Real Estate (Tier 2)

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners advises on matters including sale and purchase agreements, conveyancing, leasing, and title searches and registrations. Notable highlights included acting for the subsidiary of an investment bank on a 5000sqm development site. Ibrahim Sjarief Assegaf is the leading figure. 


Restructuring and Insolvency (Tier 2)

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners’ Eri Hertiawan acted for Trimas Mulia in a debt moratorium application, and represented the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore in bankruptcy proceedings against Tigerair Mandala.


Shipping (Tier 2)

Eri Hertiawan and Chandra Hamzah co-head the group at Assegaf Hamzah & Partners, which ‘achieves excellent results’, and recently acted for a shipowner in a $1.2m general average claim. The group also advised Kharisma Mutiara Agung on its acquisition of 40% of the shares in Parvi Indah Persada from a private individual. 


Tax (Tier 3)

Assegaf Hamzah & Partners’ ‘deeply knowledgeable’ team provides ‘quick response times and highly beneficial guidance’. Licensed tax adviser and tax court attorney Wibowo Mukti heads the group, which advises on the full range of issues, from corporate compliance to reviews, audits and tax court appeals. 

Christopher & Lee Ong

Banking & Finance (Tier 2)

Christopher & Lee Ong handles corporate banking, project finance, structured financing and debt restructuring. The firm sits on the panels of Maybank, Mizuho Bank and Hong Leong Bank. Christopher Lee and Fiona Sequerah are recommended. 


Capital Markets (Tier 4)

Christopher & Lee Ong’s equity capital markets experts include Christopher Lee and Yon See Ting. Lee served as Malaysian counsel to ISEC Healthcare in its IPO and sponsor-supervised listing on the SGX. 


Corporate and M&A (Tier 2) 

Christopher & Lee Ong routinely serves as Malaysian counsel in major cross-border transactions and is a member of the Rajah & Tann LLP Asia network. Yon See Ting acted for Chinese investment company CITIC Environment Protection, carrying out due diligence on the Malaysian subsidiaries of United Envirotech prior to acquisition. Together with practice head Christopher Lee, Yon also advised Arenga Pinnata and Strategic Ambience on a RM246m share acquisition and subsequent takeover of Masterskill Education Group. Highlights for ‘astute professional’ Kuok Yew Chen, who ‘gives quick responses, is readily accessible, and knows how to navigate red tape’, included advising Maybank on a joint venture with Volkswagen Capital. 


Dispute Resolution (Tier 4) 

Christopher & Lee Ong’s commercial litigation practice is led by Ong Chee Kwan, who handled a number of significant arbitration matters and court proceedings relating to shipping disputes. 


IT and Telecoms (Tier 2)
Leading Lawyer(s): Kuok Yew Chen

Christopher & Lee Ong’s ‘excellent’ practice is co-headed by Kuok Yew Chen and Yau Yee Ming, and covers the entire region as a result of its association with the Rajah & Tann LLP Asia network. Clients include governments, statutory boards and corporations, and the team handles outsourcing, licensing and e-commerce matters. 


Islamic Finance (Tier 3)

Christopher & Lee Ong’s Christopher Lee and Fiona Sequerah advised Cagamas Global as issuer and Cagamas as guarantor in connection with a $2.5bn multi-currency medium term note programme, and assisted Cagamas Global Sukuk as issuer and trustee and Cagamas as obligor in a £2.5bn multi-currency sukuk issuance programme. 


Labour and Employment (Tier 3)

Christopher & Lee Ong’s work includes retrenchment exercises and litigation in the Industrial Court. Rubini Murugesan is recommended. 


Projects and Energy (Tier 1)

Christopher & Lee Ong provides ‘great service and timely responses’. Christopher Lee assisted Prasarana Malaysia with phase 3 of the Klang Valley Light Rail Transit System extension and, together with Eileen Yeoh, advised Petronas on establishing the power plant in the Refinery And Petrochemicals Integrated Development (RAPID) project. Shemane Chan is assisting 1MDB Real Estate in the Tun Razak Exchange development, a proposed RM26bn financial district. Clients of the ‘reasonable’ Yau Yee Ming include Sumitomo. 


Real Estate and Construction (Tier 3)

Christopher & Lee Ong’s Shemane Chan is advising 1MDB Real Estate as main developer of new financial district Tun Razak Exchange, valued at RM26bn. Lim Hui Ming is also recommended for real estate work. 


Shipping (Tier 2)
Leading Lawyer(s): Ong Chee Kwan

Christopher & Lee Ong handled disputes relating to unpaid bills, ship mortgages, vessel collisions and ship arrests. Jainil Bhandari, who is qualified to practice in Malaysia and Singapore, and Ong Chee Kwan are recommended. 


Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers

Banking & Finance (Tier 3)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers has been prominently involved in borrower side mandates recently. Vu Thi Que and senior associate Trinh Minh Duc are advising Novelis Group on a $200m subordinated (secured) revolving loan facility with Morgan Stanley. Nguyen Dinh Nha heads the team, following Brian Ng’s return to Singapore. 


Corporate and M&A (Tier 3)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers reinforced its practice through its absorption of VN Counsel, which resulted in Nguyen Thi Hong Thang’s arrival, and the strategic recruitment of Thuy Hoang Thi Thanh from Schulz, Noack, Bärwinkel, who focuses her practice on German clients. The group is advising Fairfax Asia on its acquisition of a 35% stake in the post-issue share capital of a Vietnamese state-owned insurer. Vu Thi Que heads the team. Brian Ng relocated to the firm’s Singapore office. 


Dispute Resolution (Tier 1)
Leading Lawyer(s): Chau Huy Quang

Chau Huy Quang heads Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers’ dispute resolution practice, which is increasingly involved in international arbitration and works closely with its Singapore office in cases that are either subject to Singaporean law or heard under SIAC rules. Foreign counsel Logan Leung, who joined from LNT & Partners in December 2014, shares leadership of the international arbitration subgroup with Quang. The group is also involved in oil and gas, shipping, employment and construction disputes. Tran Vi Thoai is a highly regarded litigator.


Intellectual Property: Local Firms (Tier 4)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers handles IP matters from within its dispute resolution and corporate and M&A teams, through which it regularly wins instructions to advise on trade mark registrations, IP licensing and copyright infringement. Litigator Chau Huy Quang is a key name for anti-counterfeiting and Vu Thi Que focuses on IP licensing and advisory matters. 


Projects & Energy (Tier 3)

Vu Thi Que’s team at Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers has won new instructions from Korean and Japanese clients. The group is advising Thi Vai International Port – a joint venture between Kyoei Steel, Vung Tau Shipping and VN Steel Corporation – on developing a port in Phu My. 


Real Estate and Construction (Tier 3)

Vu Thi Que leads the team at Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers, which was augmented by the arrival of real estate specialist Nguyen Thi Hong Thang, as a result of the firm’s merger with VN Counsel. Nguyen works closely with key client Setia Becamex and is handling the Ecolakes My Phuoc residential project. 


Shipping (Tier 2)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers has established a shipping practice following its recent integration with Singaporean law firm Rajah & Tann LLP, which has a highly regarded shipping team. The team won instructions to advise shipping companies on establishment, compliance and competition, and represents clients in seeking orders for and defending against ship arrests. Chau Huy Quang and foreign counsel Logan Leung are the key names. 


TMT (Tier 2)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers has increased its practice exponentially through its alliance with Singapore-based Rajah & Tann LLP and continues to work with Brian Ng, who has returned to Singapore following the completion of his secondment to Vietnam. It handles a varied workload for regional and multinational clients, which includes assistance with compliance issues and transactional support. 


Tax (Tier 3)

Rajah & Tann LCT Lawyers’ strength in tax stems largely from its expertise in litigation and it is handling several ongoing tax disputes. On the tax advisory side, the team is instructed to assist with tax incentives, double taxation treaties and transfer pricing. Department head Chau Huy Quang also leads the dispute resolution team.