International law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has announced its intention to open its first office in Myanmar and the appointment of Partner Chris Hughes, former Managing Partner in Baker & McKenzie’s Yangon office, to lead this expansion. Once established, this will be the Firm’s 14th office in its 12th country and further strengthens and extends its presence in Asia where it currently has offices in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Over the last few years, the Firm has made strong inroads into Myanmar and in 2013 advised Fosroc on what was seen as the first UK investment into the country since the enactment of the new Foreign Investment Law. The opening of an office in Myanmar, the largest country in mainland South East Asia and one of the fastest growing markets, means BLP will capitalise on the improving investment climate in the region, as evidenced by the country’s first democratic elections in 25 years having just taken place. It also reflects the Firm’s constant commitment to its clients’ needs, ensuring that it has a physical presence in such a rapidly developing economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, Myanmar is targeting a 2016 GDP growth of 8.2 per cent, driven by foreign investment and rapid expansion in its telecoms sector. With its wealth of natural resources and strategic location between India and China, foreign investment is increasingly focused on the country’s energy, transportation, tourism and telecommunications industries presenting BLP with the opportunity to advise investors from abroad.
Chris Hughes is a highly respected Australian and UK qualified emerging markets transactional lawyer. He has a broad corporate background with vast experience in M&A activity, finance deals and projects work. His work has spanned sectors including energy and infrastructure, power, telecommunications, consumer goods and government. Chris is also the lead draftsman on the Asian Development Bank sponsored Myanmar Company Law reform process, which will be shortly submitted to Parliament, giving BLP a leading edge in corporate advice to local and international businesses. Chris will be focused on developing a talented team of both Myanmar and international legal staff to help clients succeed in the country.
Bob Charlton, Head of Asia, BLP, said: “With further political stability and clients demanding more insightful expertise across South East Asia, this is the perfect time for BLP to expand its presence in the region. Myanmar is one of the most emerging of the South East Asian economies and Chris’ appointment provides real local knowledge which will be of huge benefit to our clients.
“The legal market is in growth mode in Myanmar and this provides great opportunities for BLP in a country which is now opening up to increased international investment into infrastructure, real estate, telecommunications and transport to name a few. By opening here, we will be able to provide world class legal services, helping the development and transition of Myanmar. Feedback from our existing clients in Myanmar, as well as prospective clients across the wider region, shows it is the right time to have a physical presence in the country and highlights how we as a Firm are flexible and nimble enough to respond to our clients’ needs.”
Commenting on his appointment, Chris added: ”Having worked in Myanmar for a couple of years now, I understand the challenges and opportunities associated with businesses entering into frontier markets. Many companies from Europe and North America are now ensuring that investment into South East Asia, and particularly Myanmar, is a big part of any growth strategy and we will be perfectly positioned to advise them with our local knowledge alongside our already strong Asian footprint. As one of the first international law firms to operate in Myanmar, BLP has a rich history of working in the South East Asia region and the opportunity to build a local presence to serve a truly international client base really attracted me to the Firm.”
In March 2014, BLP was one of the first firms to make an entry into Myanmar with the announcement that a local law firm, Legal Network Consultants (LNC) had become the Myanmar member of its Asia Network. This helped the firm to truly understand the market in Myanmar before the right opportunity came about to open its own office. These latest developments will have no effect on the Firm’s relationship with LNC, which will remain a member of BLP’s Asia Network. The existing relationship will continue to prosper and grow, sharing work whenever necessary.