Shearman & Sterling‘s announcement this week that it has acquired a Hong Kong law practice again is spotlighting an ongoing debate among leading Wall Street firms about whether or not to go local in the red-hot market.
Shearman has recruited Hong Kong-qualified partners Colin Law and Peter Chen from O’Melveny & Myers. Law, a veteran capital markets lawyer, had previously worked for U.K. firm Lovells before joining O’Melveny in 2006. He will serve as co-head of Shearman’s Hong Kong Office, the firm announced Wednesday.
The move by Shearman to acquire local Hong Kong capability follows a year in which the Hong Kong market led the world in initial public offerings, raising $27.2 billion according to Dealogic. A few years ago, the large mainland Chinese companies driving the Hong Kong IPO boom might also have been expected to list in the United States. But such dual listings have become rare.
Matthew Bersani, Shearman’s Asia managing partner, says such market trends have made it tough for firms practicing only U.S. law. Though such firms still often score major roles on Hong Kong deals because of the expected interest of U.S. institutional investors, Bersani says the trend in such instances is toward “one-stop-shop” firms. “In Hong Kong listing work, it’s very rare now to see separate U.S. counsel hired,” he says.
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