Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the first Magic Circle firm and the latest of the UK’s top 20 to launch in Myanmar, despite ongoing concerns over the risk factors for corporations looking to invest in a republic with a legacy of political instability and human rights atrocities.
The new office, which will be based in Yangon, will be headed by Bangkok head Simon Makinson.
Makinson has led the firm’s push into Myanmar since European and US sanctions began to lift and the country underwent jurisdictional reform, opening up the legal market to international players in 2012.
Makinson said: ‘While risk is still a key factor for corporations looking to invest in Myanmar, the business and legal framework for opportunity is improving day-by-day.
‘In terms of industry development, we have been active in the power sector, working with developers and multilaterals, including assisting with the development of a standardised power purchase agreement for all electricity sales. We are also a member of the UK-Myanmar Financial Services Task Force reviewing Myanmar’s banking regulations.’
The Myanmar team at present includes two lawyers in addition to Makinson and three support staff, who will work alongside the firm’s teams in Bangkok and Singapore. The new office will continue to focus on the telecom, banking and finance, energy (including oil and gas), infrastructure, manufacturing and consumer goods sectors.
The firm is already actively involved with clients in the region and Makinson added: ‘On the client side we are advising across all active sectors with the ‘big ticket’ deal to date being our work for Telenor on its successful bid for one of the two recently awarded telecommunications licences in the country’s first internationally recognised public procurement process.’
The Yangon base is A&O’s twelfth office in the Asia-Pacific region.
Other firms to have opened this year in Myanmar include Berwin Leighton Paisner, via a non-exclusive tie-up with domestic outfit Legal Network Consultants.
In February Baker & McKenzie announced the launch of a branch in Yangon to be led by infrastructure and corporate partner Chris Hughes. The decision was made at the firm’s Asia Pacific partners meeting held in Tokyo this year, handing Bakers its 16th office in the wider Asia region.