Legal Business

Asia focus: Gordon Dadds breaks international duck in Hong Kong while HFW adds Korea expertise

Asia focus: Gordon Dadds breaks international duck in Hong Kong while HFW adds Korea expertise

Ambitious listed law firm Gordon Dadds has launched its first overseas office in Hong Kong, as HFW bolsters its Korean capability with a London hire.

Gordon Dadds has been in acquisitive form since listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) last August, and has now turned its mind to international expansion after gaining approval to practise English law in Hong Kong.

The new Asian outpost will be led by Alan Ma, a real estate lawyer who joins from his own practice, Maxwell Alves Solicitors. Gordon Dadds’ London-based managing partner Adrian Biles will also spend time in the new six-lawyer office, which will initially specialise in property and corporate law.

Biles told Legal Business the Hong Kong market suited the firm’s strengths in capital markets, and commented on Ma: ‘He’s an extremely well-qualified lawyer and he has a lot of local contacts. He’s very well-liked in Hong Kong and an all-round nice guy.’

Biles said the firm was also eyeing Bermuda for its next international hub, citing the strength of the region’s insurance market.  The Hong Kong opening is a continuation of an expansion strategy that has seen the firm acquire five businesses in the 2017/18 financial year. Among those were tax advisory business, CW Energy, for £4m, and south London law firm, Alen-Buckley.

Gordon Dadds’ top line grew 25% to £31.2m in the year to 31 March, its first financial results since listing. Profits before tax were up 23% to £3m, while operating profits, which include partner profit shares, were up 19% to £8.8m.

Elsewhere, HFW added to Ince & Co’s recent fee-earner exodus by hiring its construction partner Kijong Nam.

Nam, who had been a partner at Ince since 2011, becomes the eighth construction partner to move to HFW in the last 18 months, following hires in Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne Perth and Sydney.

While Nam will be based in London, he is a native Korean speaker who will work with HFW’s Korean clients, including contractors, energy companies and project sponsors. His practice is focused on the offshore construction and shipping industries.

Nam commented: ‘My clients will be pleased to know that they can now benefit from HFW’s extensive international network and first-class multi-disciplinary team.’

Legal Business

Deal watch: HFW acts for Greek government on major state sell-off while US firms score heavyweight mandates

Deal watch: HFW acts for Greek government on major state sell-off while US firms score heavyweight mandates

In a deal of major national significance, Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) and Clifford Chance (CC) have advised the Greek state on the €535m privatisation of its gas network. Meanwhile US leaders  Kirkland & Ellis, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Jones Day have also acted on substantial buyouts recently.

The sale of the natural gas transmission system operator, DESFA, is part of Greece’s wider strategy of disposing assets to reduce the country’s debt following the financial crisis. The deal implies a total equity value for DESFA of €810m.

Alex Kyriakoulis, HFW’s lead corporate partner, told Legal Business that Greece has earmarked some €50bn in assets to be sold off, having already sold a 67% stake in Piraeus Port to Chinese shipping giant COSCO in 2016.

Kyriakoulis, who has advised the Greek government for the last seven years, commented: ‘It’s their second or third attempt to privatise the Greek gas industry. They had previously tried to sell for a slightly lower consideration, about €400m. They’ve done well to sell the same stock for €535m.’

CC also advised the Greek state on EU law matters, while local outfit Koutalidis Law Firm provided Greek law counsel. The buying consortium, consisting of Snam, Enagás and Fluxys, was advised by Athens-based Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm.

Elsewhere, Weil is acting for French IT company Atos in its $3.67bn acquisition of US-based IT services provider Syntel.

The all-cash transaction will see Atos buy all of Syntel’s outstanding shares at $41 per share as well as the US company’s debt. Atos expects the Syntel deal to bring in around $1bn in additional revenue.

New York-based M&A partner Jackie Cohen led Weil’s team that comprised partners Claude Serra, Chayim Neubort, Paul Wessel, Jeffrey Osterman, Annemargaret Connolly, Morgan Bale, Olivier Jauffret, Ariel Kronman, Randi Singer and Ted Posner.

Jones Day, which acted for Syntel, was led by M&A partners James Dougherty and Tim FitzSimons.

Finally, Kirkland landed a key role on the $430m sale of Coriant, a provider of hyperscale network solutions, to California-based Infinera.

Infinera, which was represented by Palo Alto firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, will pay $150m in cash at closing, with additional instalments of $25m and $55m over the coming years. Infinera also plans to issue around 21 million shares which, combined with the cash consideration, brings the overall deal value to roughly $430m.

The Kirkland team was led by corporate partner Hamed Meshki, and included capital markets partner Dennis Myers, real estate partner Roberto Miceli, tax partners Russell Light and Josh McLane and debt finance partner David Nemecek.

Legal Business

Life during law: Richard Crump

Life during law: Richard Crump

Never wanted to be a lawyer. I was persuaded to read law at Oxford by my school. I wanted to do history. Hated law at university. Wasted my time. I was lectured by the great and good but didn’t find it interesting. The one interesting course was on international trade, which was given by a guy called Francis Reynolds. Also a guy that tutored me at college, Peter Gross, who later became a Lord Justice of Appeal, they kindled that interest for me.

When I joined Holman Fenwick & Willan, as it was then known, my intention was to get my two years’ articles and do something else.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: New Year moves at Eversheds, DLA Piper and HFW

Revolving doors: New Year moves at Eversheds, DLA Piper and HFW

Many City partners got the New Year started at new firms, with Eversheds, DLA Piper and Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) making key hires in the City.

Eversheds hired property partner Clare Whitaker from Clyde & Co as it expanded its City real estate practice in an effort to boost its offering within the hotel and leisure sector. Whitaker has been a partner at Clydes for the last two years, before which she worked at Reed Smith from 2006 to 2012 where she became a partner in 2007.

Whitaker’s experience includes negotiating hotel management agreements and involvement in time share and shared ownership projects. Some of her recent key deals include advising Compass Group on the £3.3bn disposal of hotel brands it acquired through the demerger of Granada Compass and acting for CVC Capital Partners on the £1.7bn successful bidding for the issued share capital of Debenhams. She also negotiated the lease of Microsoft’s central London office headquarters and represented Starwood Capital on its £200m refinancing of a portfolio of English and Scottish hotels.

Meanwhile, commodities lawyer Richard Usher moved from in-house to private practice after he joined DLA Piper as a partner in its City finance and projects practice. Usher has 18 years’ experience of working within the in-house community, most recently, Usher as legal counsel at Noble Group for six months and general counsel (GC) at BTG Pactual Commodities for eight months.

He has also been GC at Global Shipping and Trading for just over a year and a half, head of commodities at Legal EMEA from July 2006 to May 2012, and various other in-house roles prior to this. His experience comprises mainly of advising commodity trading houses and banks, including BTG Pactual, Mercuria Energy Trading and Morgan Stanley, and has particular experience in the oil and energy sector.

Head of DLA Piper’s finance and projects practice Charles Morrison said: ‘I am delighted that Richard is joining DLA Piper, bolstering our position in the market place within the commodities arena. He brings a huge amount of expertise to the team, and will add to the firm’s strength in emerging markets.’

The firm also expanded its trade and government relations practice with the hire of John Forrest, who was a senior civil servant and formerly a senior director at Dechert, as a partner and will lead the firm’s trade practice. Baroness of Vernham Dean Elizabeth Symons, who was the former general secretary of the FDA Trade Union and a Minister of State, and an existing consultant to DLA Piper, also joins the firm to lead the city government relations practice.

The hires comes on the back of growing demand for sanctions, and import and export controls advice, as well as an increase in clients’ needs for strategic government relations counsel. Symons joined at the beginning of the year, whereas Forrest will join the firm in March.

HFW also recruited in the City, but within its employment practice, with the hire of partner Neil Adams, who joins from US firm Edwards Wildman Palmer.

Adams leaves Edwards Wildman as the firm has seen a flurry of exits from its London office. He was at the US firm for ten years, since joining the legacy Kendall Freeman in 2000 before its tie-up with Edwards Angell to form Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge in 2008. Before 2000, he was a partner at rival firm Trowers & Hamlins for two years. Adams will re-join fellow partners Richard Spiller and Ashwani Kochhar who joined HFW in 2011 from legacy firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge.

Richard Spiller, head of the firm’s insurance and reinsurance practice said: ‘Having previously worked with Neil, I know that his experience of handling complex employment law issues in the insurance sector will add a valuable extra dimension to our existing capability.’

Adams advises on aspects of employment counselling and complex litigation for financial commodities and technology clients. He has experience of advising on both individual and team moves, breach of contract and duty, the enforcement of restrictive covenants and board disputes. His work also involves advising in relation to M&A and restructuring, litigation in the High Court and employment tribunals.