This article first appeared on November 21, 2017 in ALB Insights, a weekly, ad-free newsletter that is sent to subscribers. To purchase your subscription, please email Amantha at amantha.chia@thomsonreuters.com or call her at +65 6870 3917.

 

November marked a decade in Hong Kong for Weil, Gotshal & Manges. John Kang spoke to Akiko Mikumo, then the office head and Asia managing partner, about the how the firm focused on M&A and PE, how the Hong Kong office evolved, and what’s next for the firm.

Akiko Mikumo

ALB: What have been some of the biggest achievements of Weil’s Hong Kong office so far?

Mikumo: M&A and private equity have throughout been key components of Weil’s DNA. We first followed our multinational clients into China to help them execute their complex acquisitions, joint ventures and strategic alliances. We then came to Hong Kong with our PE clients 10 years ago to represent them on their investments throughout Asia. We “stuck to our knitting," i.e. chose not to join the Hong Kong IPO scramble at the time, and our strategy paid off. The market quickly came to recognise us as a leading M&A and PE shop in Asia.

ALB: How has the Hong Kong office evolved in the past decade?

Mikumo: We expand only if it makes strategic sense to further reinforce our core M&A and PE Asia platform, having regard to the continuing development of the Asia M&A/PE market. We were “small but perfectly formed” when we first arrived in Hong Kong with top New York M&A and PE partner Peter Feist and myself, and we soon added top Hong Kong public deal capability with Henry Ong. We further deepened our PE bench strength with Tim Gardner who, following a deep dive in the New York market as an attorney and banker, is now recognized as one of Asia’s top PE practitioners. Weil lifer and New York-seasoned Shim Soo-jin came to Hong Kong to build our leading Asia leverage finance and, soon after their joining, John Fadely together with Albert Cho propelled our private funds formation group to become market leaders.

ALB: Which areas have provided the biggest growth?

Mikumo: Reflecting Asia’s nascent M&A and PE scene over a decade ago and its continuing development, Weil first entered the China M&A market through our Shanghai office in 2004, followed by Hong Kong in 2007 and then Beijing in 2008. As the market moved on from a predominantly emerging-markets IPO scene and as financing evolved from the its more traditional forms and sources, PE and M&A activity began to pick up rapidly in terms of deal numbers and deal sizes, and also in terms of sophistication. Weil’s strategy has been to lead in this exciting and rapidly growing deal scene.

ALB: What were some of the biggest challenges for the Hong Kong office?

Mikumo: Recruiting the right people. This is challenging mainly because the PE and M&A market in Asia is still developing, and we are a specialised deal shop with very specific requirements.

ALB: What’s next for Weil in Hong Kong in the next 10 years?

Mikumo: We look forward to continuing to play a leadership role in the further development of the M&A and PE market in Asia. As mentioned, we will grow with the market and with our clients, and we will consider practice areas that are consistent with our DNA and that are a strategic fit with our core M&A and PE platform.

 

To contact the writer, please email john.kang@tr.com