6 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – JAPAN E-MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2023 Japanese outbound investment is continuing at pace, and Europe is in the crosshairs, as companies from the Asian country look to turn M&A transactions in the latter continent into outsized returns. In this year alone, Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co acquired a 70 percent stake for $473 million in food constituent manufacturer Nutrinova Netherlands from Celanese; Britain-based restaurant chain Snowfox Group was bought by Japan’s Zensho Holdings for $621 million; and JERA, Japan’s biggest power general company, swallowed up Belgium’s largest offshore wind platform Parkwindfor $1.7 billion. The flurry of Japanese outbound investment into Europe has also fuelled a novel sight - more and more Japanese law firms opening in Europe. Anderson Mori & Tomotsune (AMT), which has started the process for opening a new office in Brussels early next year following its first European outpost in London, describes Europe as “a strategic destination for Japanese clients” while Japan is “a key Asian jurisdiction for European businesses.” “London and Brussels are the two of the key cities for international firms that operate in Europe. London, post-Brexit, remains a key financial centre and Brussels is the regulatory hub of the European Union, so those locations complement each other in creating value for our clients,” explains AMT. “We are expecting more interaction between the Japanese and the European markets after the governments lifted the travel restrictions post COVID-19 and also as a result of the comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan,” adds AMT, referring to the bilateral trade pact, signed in February 2019, that aims to enhance business access between the two places. A new trail in a market known for its regulatory stringency is hardly a breeze. “It is probably fair to say that for both our London and Brussels offices, there were, and still are, a lot of tasks to complete in terms of procedural aspects when opening those offices, including due to stringent KYC/antimoney laundering regulations,” recollects AMT. In particular, the trade agreement is considered beneficial for French exporters, and Japan is France’s sixth-largest trading partner outside the EU. According to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, some 8,000 French companies already export to Japan, many of them first-time exporters, selling goods worth more than €6 billion ($6.55 billion). Tomohiro Tohyama, senior partner of TMI Associates, cites his firm’s experience led by TMI’s founder, Katsuro Tanaka, in providing legal services for Japan’s outbound (to France) and inbound work (to Japan), including for several big apparel and fragrance brands, as the commercial basis for launching TMI Avocats & Associés in Paris as a member of the TMI Global Network, TMI’s second office in Europe after London, and its third outside Asia. “We believe that there will be a continuous and increasing demand for our services in the future through both our new Paris office and our French Desk located in our Tokyo office,” says Tohyama, while eyeing a new pathway to the broader African market. Another law firm, Miura & Partners, has announced plans to launch London office, also covering Germany, another popular investment destination from Japan. “Germany and the UK will be two main markets for our London office where the Japanese companies are active,” says Masayuki Atsumi, who will be one of the co-representatives of the London office. He adds that this underscores “steadily increasing” Europe-related inbound and outbound work namely mergers and acquisitions. “Also, we are frequently requested to analyse regulatory issues that European companies are facing in Japan, e.g., Japanese privacy regulation and capital market regulations,” Atsumi notes. TMI Associates, in particular, is targeting the work in energy and healthcare industries as these two sectors “are two of the emerging areas for legal services around the world, and Europe is one of the key areas for performing work in these fields,” says Tohyama. NO COMPETITION, BUT STILL CHALLENGES “We will keep providing legal services for both outbound and inbound work by working in close cooperation with local law offices in each region” says Tohyama. AMT, likewise, emphasizes it has no intention to compete with European law firms and rather aims to cultivate its 70-year and more friendship with European firms. “We believe that this approach is different from that of the European offices operated by other Japanese law firms, and believe that our approach to cooperate with European law firms should create more value both for Japanese clients and local UK/European law firms,” says AMT. Miura & Partners believes a decision to open a London office will be rewarding although the task has been a big challenge for them. “Trying to open the DESTINATION EUROPE 目指すは欧州 Image: rongyiquan/ BY SARAH WONG