Dentons has completed its combinations with Malaysia’s Zain & Co. and Indonesia’s Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners as the global legal giant continues its expansion in Southeast Asia, hoping to take advantage of the region’s growing economic potential.
Both Kuala Lumpur-based Zain & Co. and Jakarta-based Hanafiah Ponggawa are 13-partner full-service firms. The tie-ups, announced in March of this year, help Dentons “pursue its strategy to become a pan-Asian law firm that reaches more of Asia than its competitors,” said Elliott Portnoy, global chief executive officer of Dentons. The latest combinations give Dentons reach in 75 countries around the world, including in China, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore and South Korea.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the largest and third-largest economies, respectively, among the 10 countries known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which, according to the International Monetary Fund, would have the world’s fifth biggest economy ($2.8 trillion) and third largest population (643 million), if it were to count as one country.
Dentons has already launched in other ASEAN markets. In May of last year, Dentons launched in Myanmar by acquiring a seven-lawyer team from boutique firm Livingstons Legal; and in 2016, the firm combined with Singapore’s Rodyk & Davidson.
Though ASEAN members have been growing, there have also been speed bumps along the way. Indonesia’s growth has stalled to about 5 percent in recent years, lower than President Joko Widodo’s 7 percent target when he took office in 2014, and the Indonesian rupiah, the country’s currency, fell to the weakest level this month against the dollar since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s central bank cut this year’s growth forecast to 5 percent from its previous forecast of 5.5-to-6 percent, citing global and domestic uncertainties following the election of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in May, which ended the National Front party’s six-decade-long rule.
Updated 9/24: This story has been updated with the closing of Dentons’ combination with Indonesian firm Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners.