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New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges plans to open an office in Hong Kong in October to serve its private equity and corporate clients.

The office, which was approved by the Hong Kong authorities in August, will have five attorneys: two New York partners, Akiko Mikumo and Peter Feist; a Shanghai partner, David Meredith; and two associates. The group will focus on private equity and project finance, Feist said.

The 1,200-attorney Weil firm, whose private equity clients with Chinese operations include Bain Capital and Providence Equity Partners, is the last of the five largest New York firms to open in Hong Kong.

"In order to get the most out of our Asia practice, we had to be in Hong Kong," said Mikumo, who is a member of the firm's management committee and will be managing partner of the new office. "Once you're in Shanghai, you need to be in the key financial centers."

The firm, which opened its Shanghai office three years ago, intends to use Hong Kong as its base for representing clients in Asia. Weil has plans to open an office in Beijing next and is in the process of applying for a license. Tokyo "would be a natural next step," Mikumo said.

Feist said: "There are so many foreign investors asking about doing business in mainland China and how to deal with the regulatory environment. The whole modus operandi is so different from how U.S. businesses are run."

Though the U.S. subprime crisis has virtually halted private equity activity in the United States, Feist said he was not worried about the firm's prospects in Hong Kong.

"I don't expect the private equity firms to stop looking at the opportunities in Asia," said Feist, who moved to Hong Kong on Monday.

The firm's clients did not ask the firm to open an office in Hong Kong, though "private equity clients had voiced their concern," Mikumo said.

The Hong Kong office will look to hire additional lawyers, including intellectual property and general corporate practitioners, after the opening, she said.

"We're going to start modestly," Mikumo said. "It's easy to hire laterals if you have an office there. The firm wanted people from the home office to start operations."

Weil, whose clients include General Electric, Reuters, Johnson & Johnson and Koch Industries, had revenue of $1.05 billion in 2006, the ninth-highest among U.S. law firms, according to the trade publication American Lawyer.

Weil was fourth among legal advisers to principals in mergers and acquisitions deals involving private equity in 2007, according to Bloomberg data. The firm provided advice on 48 deals worth a total of $129.7 billion. Sullivan & Cromwell is first with $205.7 billion in private equity deals.

http://www.weil.com


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