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King & Wood Mallesons departures continue as Ashurst hires Hong Kong corporate heavyweight Joshua Cole

King Wood & Mallesons (KWM) is to lose senior corporate partner Joshua Cole from its Hong Kong office to Ashurst.

Cole has spent nearly his entire career at the KWM, where he joined from legacy firm Mallesons Stephens Jacques in 1996 and made partner in 2008.

Recommended by the Legal 500 for corporate M&A, he specialises in international acquisitions, disposals and joint ventures multiple industry sectors including energy and resources, telecommunications and financial services.

Major deals saw Cole play a key role advising on PetroChina International Investment (Australia) on its $1.6bn acquisition of an 8.3% interest in the East Browse gas joint venture and 20% interest in the West Browse gas joint venture, both from BHP Billiton. He also advised BG Group and QGC on the sale of interests Queensland LNG Project to CNOOC for $1.8bn; and Telstra on the $2.4bn sale of CSL New World Mobility to HKT.

It is not known when Cole is set to start at Ashurst. The firm has been making strategic hires of late to build its Asia presence, and recently strengthened its debt capital markets team with the appointment of Linklaters partner Jini Lee in its Hong Kong based securities and derivatives group. It does however follow the loss of four partners from its Tokyo office, after a team led by office managing partner John McClenahan moved to King & Spalding for its launch in the region.

For KWM, Cole is the latest heavyweight partner to defect in recent months, including fellow corporate partner Simon Milne, the firm’s relationship partner for some of its biggest clients including General Electric, Telstra and Westpac, who left in early summer for a post as executive director, mergers and acquisitions, at PwC Legal in Sydney. Arbitration veteran David Bateson also left his post in Hong Kong to join 39 Essex Chambers as an arbitrator.

The London office, meanwhile, has too seen the exit of big names, including longstanding tax partner Giles Bavister to K&L Gates, IP veteran Ray Black to Mishcon de Reya, financial markets partner Gregg Beechey to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and private equity partner Simon Fulbrook resigning to join Goodwin Procter.

Ashurst declined to comment.