The fact that Davis Polk’s recent partner additions give it a ready-to-launch Hong Kong law capability underline the benefits of top-lead strategic hiring. The firm persuaded Antony Dapiran, formerly Freshfields’ Beijing managing partner, and Bonnie Chan, who comes from a role as senior vice-president of the listing division at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, to join its partnership after working alongside them on the huge US$19.2bn IPO of Agricultural Bank of China recently.
According to Asia managing partner, William Barron, Davis Polk plans to launch in Hong Kong after taking nearly two years to identify suitable candidates to lead the effort. Both Dapiran and Chan’s relationships with Davis Polk go back to 2007, where they first worked together on China Construction Bank’s IPO. Davis Polk was then co-counsel with Freshfields, advising underwriter Morgan Stanley – where Chan worked as in-house counsel.
With 11 years at Freshfields, Dapiran will bring with him a long list of clients, consisting mostly of Chinese corporates and investment banks. Some of the many IPOs he has handled include China Construction Bank, China Longyuan Power, Yingde Gases Group, Want Want China Holdings, China Huiyuan Juice Group, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation and China Oilfield Services.
Given that Chan has been the main regulator for Hong Kong IPOs, responsible for reviewing prospectuses and drafting rules and policies relating to listings, she will bring to Davis Polk inside knowledge. “Bonnie is going to be able to tell us what the HKSE wants and is looking for in a prospectus. She can advise Chinese corporates on potential issues in proposals and how they can expect the stock exchange regulators to react to specific tenants,” said Barron.
Recent movement by some veteran Asia partners, like Rocky Lee’s move from DLA Piper to Cadwalader, indicate that it is becoming increasingly difficult for larger firms to retain talent. “The market has been developing rapidly, with more UK and US firms setting up offices both in the mainland and in Hong Kong, and now with many US firms launching Hong Kong law practices,” said Dapiran.
“That means that there are a lot more opportunities, and many new challenges, in the market. In this sort of environment it is difficult for the more established firms to retain people,” he said. ALB