Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

Latham & Watkins has doubled its partner head count in Tokyo, recruiting three corporate partners from Morrison & Foerster—a move taking place as global firms have been expanding their M&A practices in Japan.

Ivan Smallwood, Noah Carr and Stuart Beraha, who were all Tokyo partners at Morrison & Foerster, advise Japanese companies and financial investors on outbound merger and acquisition transactions.

Smallwood and Carr focus on structuring and negotiating outbound acquisitions, investments and divestitures, strategic alliances, and joint venture transactions in the technology, telecommunications and financial services industries. Both were part of the team that advised Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp. on a $32 billion acquisition of U.K.-based chip designer ARM Holdings Plc. in 2016.

Beraha’s practice focuses on technology, intellectual property development, licensing and partnering transactions, including the IP components of M&A transactions. In 2017, he and Smallwood were part of the team that represented Japanese technology giant Toshiba Corp. on an $18 billion sale of subsidiary Toshiba Memory Corp. to a consortium led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital.

Smallwood and Beraha had been longtime partners at Morrison & Foerster, which has one of the largest Tokyo offices among global firms. Carr made partner in 2016.

Smallwood joined Morrison & Foerster in 2005 after almost five years at Sullivan & Cromwell in Tokyo and Los Angeles; he made partner in 2009. Beraha relocated to Tokyo in 2000 to join Morrison & Foerster from Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ New York office, where he practised for five years; he made partner in 2005.

The hires come at a time when Japan has been seeing more M&A activity as Japanese companies seek to expand into overseas markets against the backdrop of a shrinking domestic economy and government support for outbound investment.

Latham Tokyo office managing partner Stephen McWilliams said in a statement that the three partners and their track record of advising major Japanese companies on complex cross-border matters bolster the firm’s strategic goal of expanding in Japan and across Asia.

Latham now has six partners in Tokyo—the other partners are M&A lawyers Nozomi Oda and Hiroki Kobayashi; Last month the firm appointed longtime Singapore partner McWilliams to head the office. McWilliams will split his time between Tokyo and Singapore. In January, longtime Tokyo antitrust partner Daiske Yoshida moved from Latham to Morrison & Foerster.

Other U.S. firms have also been expanding their M&A practices in Tokyo in recent years. K&L Gates recruited former Morrison & Foerster partner Dale Araki and former Jones Day counsel Dooyong Kang and Eric Sedlak as partners since 2017; Tsuguhito Omagari rejoined K&L Gates earlier this week after a year at Tokyo-based firm Sonderhoff & Einsel.

In 2018, Davis Polk & Wardwell hired Shearman & Sterling Tokyo partner and Asia M&A head Kenneth Lebrun; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe recruited Vinson & Elkins’ former Tokyo office managing partner James Atkin; Paul Hastings hired Norton Rose Fulbright’s Tokyo corporate head Eiji Kobayashi; and DLA Piper recruited Dan Matsuda from Jones Day. Shearman covered the loss of Lebrun by hiring Karl Pires in January from White & Case.

Mayer Brown and Debevoise & Plimpton launched Tokyo offices, in 2018 and 2016, respectively, in part because of more outbound M&A work in Japan.