GCR 100 - 17th Edition

China

10 January 2017

China

Since China enacted its Anti-Monopoly Law, it has seen the rapid development of a sophisticated antitrust bar, in which international and domestic firms advise companies that are caught in the government’s efforts to regulate its formidable economy.

Elite

BROAD & BRIGHT’s antitrust group is led by renowned specialist Yao Feng, who receives plaudits from her peers for being an efficient and effective competition lawyer. Her years working in the legal department at Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation – now the Ministry of Commerce – have benefited her understanding of the workings of Chinese government agencies, a key selling point to both local and international companies.

The firm, like many others, has been heavily involved in several antitrust investigations, most notably in the recent headline-grabbing areas of automobiles, infant milk and technology. Along with a regular diet of compliance and distribution work, it advises several clients in the telecoms and software sectors, helping those companies file complaints and advising them on defence strategy before the National Development and Reform Commission. Like a handful of other firms, Broad & Bright also advised on the drafting of antitrust legislation in China.

In the merger sphere, Broad & Bright most prominently represented Avago during the Avago/Broadcom US$37 billion tie-up. The firm is frequently tapped by international firms to assist during tough mergers that require Chinese clearance.

Occupying a unique position in the market as both a domestic and international law firm, KING & WOOD MALLESONS maintains a strong presence at the Chinese antitrust bar. Under the leadership of renowned practitioner Susan Ning, the firm is a popular choice for many international and large Chinese companies, as well as their outside counsel needing to secure antitrust clearance. Partner Martyn Huckerby is based in Shanghai.

Merger work remains steady, with King & Wood regularly instructed as Chinese liaison on global deals. Most recently the firm coordinated GE’s acquisition of Alstom’s power and power grid businesses, which was cleared without conditions by the Chinese enforcer. The firm also advised Staples on its acquisition of Office Depot, which Mofcom approved without conditions under the simplified procedure.

On the enforcement side, the firm advised NYK Line in a leniency application to the NDRC as the enforcer investigated collusion in the roll-on roll-off cargo sector. It has also been counsel to Microsoft during a State Administration for Industry and Commerce investigation of interoperability issues.

After opening its doors three years ago, competition boutique ANJIE LAW FIRM has risen quickly through the ranks of the Chinese bar. Zhan Hao, the firm’s managing partner, heads the burgeoning antitrust group, where he is joined by three partners in Beijing – including recently promoted Song Ying – and one in Shanghai. They cover the full antitrust spectrum, but particularly the behavioural side, and have been involved in some capacity in almost all the major NDRC probes, including infant milk, automobiles, liquid-crystal displays, telecommunications, insurance and pharmaceuticals.

Over the past few years, the firm’s antitrust group has pushed to significantly expand its portfolio in private litigation. The team successfully defended Sinopec against the oil sector’s first antitrust claim, brought by Yunnan YingDing Biodiesel, and represented Hitachi Metals in a suit related to the rare earth sector, which was brought by four magnet manufacturers. AnJie also represented Panasonic in a litigation brought by its distributor regarding a monopolistic agreement. The team has also handled various intellectual property-related antitrust investigations and litigations.

The only Chinese law firm with an office in Brussels, DEHENG LAW OFFICES is another full-service antitrust team that has a growing profile on the international stage. Partner Ding Liang runs the team from Beijing, while head of international antitrust Frank Fine heads up the Brussels practice.

The firm has advised on the infant milk and automotive probes, as well as several confidential matters, and has developed a real strength in antitrust litigation. The team has advised Chinese rare-earth permanent magnetic companies against Hitachi Metals in a groundbreaking abuse of dominance claim: they claim that Hitachi’s refusal to license patents is illegal, even though they are not essential to standards. The firm has also acted in the Chinese vitamin C litigation in the US.

DENTONS – formerly Dacheng Law Offices, until its integration into the global firm last year – is the largest law firm in China. Its antitrust department reflects that with two practices in Beijing and Shanghai, with four and three partners respectively. They are co-led by partners Jet Deng in Beijing, China’s regulatory centre, and Ken Dai in Shanghai. Dai says the firm has benefited significantly from having a full-service Shanghai offering and not just a satellite practice, as numerous multinationals are headquartered in the city.

The practice has recently advised a Japanese company on an alleged electronic devices cartel, and a major shipping company before the NDRC in a cartel investigation. The firm also represented the NDRC itself during the enforcer’s abuse of dominance investigation of Qualcomm. In merger control, Dentons has recently advised on the establishment of a joint venture between Microsoft and the China Electronics Technology Group.

FANGDA PARTNERS’ already-strong reputation in the antitrust world was enhanced by the 2014 addition of former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer antitrust head Michael Han. Widely regarded as one of the best antitrust lawyers in China, he significantly boosted Fangda’s antitrust ability and capacity.

Han has recently advised ridesharing service Didi Chuxing during its planned acquisition of Uber. In cartels, meanwhile, he represented Hoegh during the NDRC’s roll-on roll-off shipping investigation; his client ultimately received no fines. In litigation, the firm has recently been involved in two antitrust litigation matters for US companies: defending Vringo against a claim by China’s ZTE, and representing InterDigital over an abuse of dominance complaint by Huawei.

Set up in 1989, JUN HE is one of China’s oldest law firms, with offices across the country as well as in New York and Silicon Valley. Highly regarded specialist Janet Hui leads the firm’s competition law practice; she is an experienced antitrust practitioner who helped in the drafting of China’s Anti-Monopoly Law.

Hui says the firm’s solid reputation sees more than three-quarters of its work come from international clients rather than domestic, and that it has been involved in around 15% of all mergers filed before Mofcom. Jun He continues to act in several antitrust investigations, with recent examples including those in the infant milk, optical lens, LCD and auto parts sectors. Antitrust counselling and compliance work remain constant as awareness of competition law in China continues to grow. Hui recently handled the Chinese leg of Marriott/Starwood, which received Mofcom approval in September 2016 after a Phase III’ review.

The first Chinese law firm to set up an antitrust practice in 2003, T&D ASSOCIATES has been under the steady stewardship of renowned antitrust specialist John Yong Ren since he founded the firm in 1997. A full-service antitrust practice, T&D has a healthy amount of merger and behavioural cases on its books.

Almost all of the firm’s work remains confidential, but the group has been directly or indirectly involved in many of the conditional merger approvals issued by Mofcom to date. The firm has a number of ongoing antitrust investigations before the NDRC.

INTERNATIONAL FIRMS

ALLEN & OVERY’s antitrust practice in China has been active in a number of high-profile cases under the leadership of François Renard, who relocated from Beijing to Hong Kong in 2015. Former Mofcom deputy director Jie Tong also contributes significantly to the group. The team counts two partners, two counsel and one senior associate, with corporate and litigation associates also providing support.

Renard and Jie Tong advised Seagate as it asked to be released from hold-separate remedies imposed on its 2011 purchase of Samsung HDD, which had prevented full integration between the companies. Mofcom lifted the remedies in October 2015, marking the first case that saw Mofcom do so in full. Renard and Beijing counsel Charles Pommiès represented Hewlett Packard Enterprise as it set up a joint venture with Tsinghua. The firm also guided TNT during its €4.4 billion takeover by FedEx; Mofcom unconditionally cleared the deal in April 2016. In cartels, the Allen & Overy team acted for an international hospitality group in an NDRC investigation that went from dawn raids to decision in three months.

On top of regular antitrust matters, a key facet of CLIFFORD CHANCE’s China office is its work with the country’s enforcers at a broader level, says Richard Blewett, head of the practice. The firm consulted with Mofcom to develop the new simplified procedure rules; has given presentations and training sessions to the SAIC; and has participated in a workshop attended by Supreme Court judges and NDRC officials.

Clifford Chance advised Pfizer during its ultimately scrapped merger with Allergan. After COFCO sought the firm’s advice in 2014 during its acquisition of 51% of Noble Agri, the company tapped Clifford Chance again as it planned to buy out the rest of the company. The team also handled Coca-Cola’s buyout of plant-based protein drink manufacturer Xiamen Culiangwang, and Carlyle’s joint acquisition of a 75% interest in Shell’s Chinese lubricants business.

FRESHFIELDS BRUCKHAUS DERINGER maintains a well-known international practice in China, led by Nicholas French, Ninette Dodoo and new joiner Alastair Mordaunt, who came to the Hong Kong office in March 2016 from Clifford Chance in London.

The China team was part of a huge global group assisting Anheuser-Busch InBev as the company acquired SABMiller. The firm handled Mofcom’s review of the deal, which was granted with conditions in July 2016. Biostime tapped the firm to advise its international acquisition of Australian vitamin maker Swisse. In cartels, Freshfields represented Compania Maritima Chilena during the NDRC’s roll-on roll-off shipping cartel investigations, and successfully obtained a reduced penalty following the company’s close cooperation with the enforcer.

Having moved to Beijing 18 months before the Anti-Monopoly Law came into force, HOGAN LOVELLS’ China antitrust head Adrian Emch is widely respected for his significant understanding of the country’s competition laws and processes. The team has established a foothold in the market advising on all aspects of antitrust law, including in key areas such as distribution and the crossover between competition law and IP.

Emch and his team guided Alstom through merger control proceedings arising out of the €12.35 billion sale of its energy business to General Electric. The firm also advised IBM on the US$2.3 billion sale of its x86 server business to Lenovo, the largest technology deal in China in 2014, as well as the US$1.5 billion sale of its microelectronics business to GlobalFoundries. The team also represented Wincor-Nixdorf in a Mofcom merger filing in relation to a joint venture with Aisino. There’s plenty more on the behavioural front, with the firm involved in probes across a range of sectors, but they remain confidential.

Another firm with its China work handled by two offices, JONES DAY has been a fixture in the Beijing antitrust landscape for some years now. Peter Wang established the practice in 2003 after spending 11 years in Washington, DC. He is supported in Beijing by partner Yizhe Zhang, who helped draft the Anti-Monopoly Law while working at Mofcom. Hong Kong partner Sébastien Evrard left for Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in late 2015.

The firm is well versed in complex matters in both mergers and enforcement cases. The firm has filed leniency applications for several clients and has been involved in both cartel and other conduct investigations. Jones Day’s recent deal work includes advising Cardinal Health in its US$1.9 billion acquisition of Cordis, a manufacturer and distributor of global interventional medical devices, as well as CommScope in the US$3 billion acquisition of TE Connectivity’s Telecom, Enterprise and Wireless businesses, which closed in August 2015. Yizhe Zhang handled the Chinese aspects of Procter & Gamble’s sale of 43 beauty brands to Coty. She also assisted US colleagues as they defended Air China and Air China Cargo in multidistrict class actions following on from the air cargo cartel.

LINKLATERS’ strength in China is based on the ties between its Beijing and Hong Kong antitrust practices, which together offer a wealth of experience. In Beijing, the team is led by partner Fay Zhou, who spent eight years working at Mofcom before moving into private practice – experience that is considered to be a significant tool in the firm’s arsenal. In Hong Kong, Zhou works regularly with partner Clara Ingen-Housz, who has international expertise. The team prides itself on being the only law firm consulted by all three of China’s enforcers on all draft regulations.

The firm’s merger prowess is well-recognised worldwide, and things are no different in China with Zhou and her team advising on a large number of merger filings – including for SABMiller during its merger with AB InBev. They also advised on the merger of China Merchants Group and Sinotrans & CSC Holdings, and CMA CGM as it acquired Neptune Orient Lines. Saint-Gobain and Corning turned to the team to handle the antitrust aspects of a joint venture focusing on the manufacture of lightweight automotive glazing. Several multinational companies facing NDRC investigations are Linklaters clients.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

Broad & Bright

Yao Feng

N/A

Yao Feng

N/A

King & Wood Mallesons

Susan Ning

7 partners

23 associates

Susan Ning

NYK Line, Välinge Innovation, RDPAC, General Electric, Staples

Highly recommended

AnJie Law Firm

Hao Zhan

6 partners

Michael Gu

Hao Zhan

Panasonic, Sinopec, Hitachi Metals, CNOOC, Honeywell

DeHeng Law Offices

Ding Liang

N/A

None

N/A

Dentons

Ken Dai

Jet Deng

7 partners

17 associates

None

National Development and Reform Commission, China Air Transport Association, Daicel Corporation, Wal-Mart Stores, Texas Instruments, Intel

Fangda Partners

Michael Han

N/A

Michael Han

N/A

Jun He

Janet Hui

N/A

Audrey Chen

Xiaohua Sara Chen

Janet Hui

N/A

T&D Associates

John Yong Ren

N/A

John Yong Ren

N/A

International firms

Allen & Overy

François Renard

2 partners

2 counsel

1 senior associate

François Renard

Seagate Technology, Merck, China Vanke, ChemChina Petrochemical, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Sinochem, TNT, Novartis

Clifford Chance

Richard Blewett

3 partners

1 counsel

4 associates

Yong Bai

Airbus, COFCO, CVC, HSBC, Oracle, Pfizer, Coca-Cola

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Nicholas French

Ninette Dodoo

2 partners

1 counsel

8 senior associates/associates

Ninette Dodoo

Anheuser-Busch InBev, Biostime International Holdings, Blackstone, ChemChina, Mars Group, Microsoft, Novartis, PepsiCo

Hogan Lovells

Adrian Emch

3 partners

2 of counsel

6 associates

Adrian Emch

Alstom, BASF, Danfoss, IBM, Kingfisher, Wincor-Nixdorf

Jones Day

Peter J Wang

Yizhe Zhang

2 partners

5 associates

Peter J Wang

Adobe, Air China, Autodesk, Baxter, Cardinal Health, Chevron, Procter & Gamble, Tokyo Electron

Linklaters

Fay Zhou

2 partners

1 counsel

7 associates

Fay Zhou

Clara Ingen-Housz

Baxter, Bosch, BP, CMA CGM, Glencore, Eli Lilly, Novartis, SABMiller, Saint-Gobain, Sanofi, ThyssenKrupp, Rio Tinto

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