Posts

Chambers Global 2021 highlights our cross-border strengths

Norton Rose Fulbright ranked first among all law firms with 18 ranked lawyers in the Chambers Global 2021 global-wide practice rankings, as well as standing in the top 10 for total number of global-wide departmental practice rankings, practice rankings across all categories and lawyers ranked overall.

The firm earned 22 global-wide practice rankings, and was ranked in 185 practice areas across all categories, including global-wide and country-specific. The 185 practice area rankings include 16 top tier rankings in China, Greece, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

A total of 234 Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers were individually ranked as leaders in their field. The firm also picked up six new departmental rankings in Africa, Latin America, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States.

In its analysis, Chambers cited clients who provided feedback on the firm’s work, praising its extensive global reach.

“The (Norton Rose Fulbright) international network has become an increasingly important component of their service delivery as cross-border business grows,” one client told Chambers. Another praised the firm’s “ability to function seamlessly with team members in different offices and across time zones.”

A full list of our rankings is available online.

Health and social care to gain the most from 5G efficiency gains

Productivity and efficiency gains enabled by 5G’s application will drive business, skills and service change worth US$1.3 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

In Powering Your Tomorrow, PwC quantifies for the first time, the economic impact of new and existing uses of 5G in utilities, health and social care, consumer, media, and financial services across eight economies with advanced rollout: Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, United States and the United Kingdom.

More than a faster version of mobile connectivity on 4G, 5G’s speed, reliability, reduced energy usage and massive connectivity will be transformative for businesses and wider society, enabling ubiquitous access to super fast broadband. Used in combination with investments in artificial intelligence and the internet of things, 5G can be used as a platform to enable business and society to realise the full benefits of emerging technology advances.

Economic gains are projected across all economies assessed in the study, as 5G offers the potential to rethink business models, skills, products and services, with the gains accelerating beginning in 2025 as 5G-enabled applications become more widespread

Based on the study, the United States (US$484bn), China (US$220bn) and Japan (US$76bn) will experience the largest uplift as a result of 5G technology applications, due to the size of their economies and strong modern industrial production sectors.

At a regional level, Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) is expected to benefit the most from manufacturing applications of 5G, due to the size of the manufacturing sectors. It demonstrates the potential for regional competitive advantage through approaches to the adoption and regulation of the technology.

Wilson Chow, Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry Leader, PwC China, comments: “These numbers quantify impact, but perhaps more important, our study reflects the value of 5G – new levels of connectivity and collaboration mean companies will be able to see, do and achieve more. It will open up new opportunities for growth and change as organisations rethink and reconfigure the way they operate in the post-pandemic world.”

“With the pandemic accelerating digitalisation across all sectors, 5G will act as a further catalyst. It will emerge in this decade as a fundamental piece of our societal infrastructure and as a platform for driving the competitiveness of national economies, new business models, skills and industries.”

Achieving better, faster outcomes in health and social care

Over half the global economic impact (US$530bn) will be driven by the transformation of health and social care experience for patients, providers and medical staff within the next ten years.

While the acceleration of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic provided a glimpse of the future of healthcare, remote care is just one area in which 5G can enable both better health outcomes and cost savings.

5G’s applications include remote monitoring and consultations, real time in-hospital data sharing, improved doctor-patient communications and automation in hospitals to reduce health care costs.

Regional & Sector impacts

At a sector level, impacts vary for individual economies. The United States and Australia are projected to gain the most from financial services applications: India from smart utilities; China and Germany in manufacturing. Other industries analysed in the study show the significant potential of new and existing applications over the next decade, driving changes in skills, jobs, consumer products and regulation:

  • SMART utilities management applications will support environmental targets to reduce carbon and waste through enabling combined smart meters and grids to deliver energy savings, and improving waste and water management through tracking of waste and water leakage (US$330bn).
  • Consumer and media applications include: over the top gaming, real time advertising and customer services (US$254bn)
  • Manufacturing and heavy industry applications include: monitoring and reducing defects, increased autonomous vehicle use (US$134bn)
  • Financial services applications including reducing fraud and improving customer experiences (US$86bn)

Wilson Chow comments: “5G is more than mobile connectivity. It puts a new lens on advancing productivity and rethinking entire business models for the future. Given the scale of potential and its impacts, every organisation will need a plan for 5G’s implementation within five years across technology and business strategies to maximise opportunities and prepare for how they integrate their technology and business strategies, and engage with customers, supply chain and regulators.”

Policy & Trust

The study highlights that the reach of 5G’s technology potential will require businesses and government to consider new approaches to regulatory and consumer engagement – focusing on how the technology is used.

Wilson Chow comments: “With any technology, policy engagement, transparency and public trust are critical factors. Whether it’s considering the use of self driving vehicles or telemedicine, how data is managed, infrastructure deployed, or how different sectors collaborate, business and government need to shit from focusing on regulating a technology, to promoting transparency in 5G’s application, building and sustaining public trust in its use and potential.”

Pandemic Slows China’s Global Deal Making in 2020

The global coronavirus pandemic has so far not triggered a Chinese buying spree of distressed assets but further slowed the pace of outbound acquisitions by Chinese companies in 2020.

According to Baker McKenzie’s 7th annual analysis of Chinese outbound investment trends, conducted in partnership with Rhodium Group, completed Chinese outbound M&A totalled just $29 billion in 2020, down almost half from $53 billion in 2019 and a record high of $139 billion in 2017. This is the lowest figure since 2008. Worldwide, only completed Chinese acquisitions in Latin America in 2020 kept pace with the previous year.

Adding greenfield investment to completed M&A, North America and Europe attracted a combined total of $15.2 billion of Chinese FDI. Completed investment in North America outpaced completed investment in Europe for the first time in five years, fuelled by the completion of several billion-dollar transactions. Investment in Europe was more fragmented and consisted of smaller transactions spread across geographies and industries.

All other regions of the world also saw declines in Chinese M&A activity in 2020 compared to 2019, except for Latin America where completion of a number of energy and utilities acquisitions announced in 2019 in Brazil, Chile, and Peru kept year-over-year activity flat compared to the previous year. Acquisitions in Asia fell by a third to $7.1 billion.

After the hurricane

China’s reintroduction of outbound investment controls, increasing regulatory scrutiny in many parts of the world over Chinese investment, geopolitical tensions, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all created headwinds for investment in recent years. But improving political and macroeconomic conditions seem likely to change this downward trend for Chinese investors in this year. The M&A pipeline remains low in early 2021 but China’s favourable macroeconomic conditions, a more predictable regulatory setup abroad and a less contentious geopolitical environment could help increase deal appetite and support a rebound in Chinese deal making globally, as well as continued growth in investment into China.

The drop in completed Chinese outbound M&A in 2020 stands in contrast to M&A flows in the other direction. Foreign M&A into China rebounded strongly in 2H 2020 and reached full-year levels similar to 2019. China’s relatively early and rapid recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 have made it an attractive target for foreign investors looking for near- and intermediate-term economic growth.

“We think 2020 is likely the low point for Chinese outbound investment if political and macroeconomic headwinds moderate,” said Michael DeFranco, global head of M&A at Baker McKenzie. “The commercial incentives for Chinese companies to invest in European and North America markets remain strong, and several variables – including higher sustained levels of investment by Western companies into China – are moving in a direction that is supportive of greater deal making in both directions in 2021.”

North America: investment edges up

In 2020, Chinese investors completed $7.7 billion worth of deals in the United States and Canada, up from $5.5 billion completed in 2019. This came even as regulatory scrutiny and tensions with China were elevated in both countries. California, Ontario, Delaware, North Carolina, and Massachusetts were the North American regions seeing the most Chinese investment.

Entertainment, health and biotech, and natural resources were the top sectors in North America. Billion dollar deals like Tencent’s stake in Universal Music and Zijin’s stake in Canada’s Continental Resources drove high industry concentration in North America in 2020.

Canada accounted for a larger share of total Chinese FDI in North America than in previous years (17%), reflecting momentum in mining deals and persistently low US investment.

Chinese companies continued to make major asset divestitures in North America in 2020. For example, Platinum Equity agreed to acquire Ingram Micro from HNA for $7.2 billion in December 2020. And in September, PetroChina dissolved its Alberta shale gas joint venture project with Ovintiv after outing up $2.2 billion for a 49.9% stake in the project in 2012.

The United States attracted more greenfield investment from China in 2020 than Canada. However, total Chinese greenfield investment in the United States was still modest at around $700 million. The biggest greenfield deals in the US included expansions of existing US footprints for companies like Haier-owned GE Appliances, Fuyao Glass, and Geely-owned Terrafugia.

Chinese companies nearly halve investment in Europe

Completed Chinese FDI in Europe continued its downward trajectory in 2020 to $7.5 billion from $13.4 billion in 2019, registering a lower total than in North America for the first time since 2016. Compared to North America, Chinese M&A transactions in Europe targeted medium-sized targets across a broader spectrum of industries. Chinese greenfield activity in Europe in 2020 was more robust than in North America, with nearly $1 billion in completed investment during the year. There were more midsized transactions in Europe dispersed across industries such as real estate and hospitality, automotive, and energy.

As with investment in North America, outbound capital controls and increased scrutiny of Chinese investment in host countries presented headwinds, as did the coronavirus pandemic. For example, FAW Group discontinued talks to acquire Italian truck maker Iveco for €3 billion during the year, with FAW citing the pandemic as a factor in its decision.

Germany ($2.0 billion), France ($1.0 billion), Poland ($780 million), Sweden ($719 million), and the United Kingdom ($427 million) received the most investment. Investment levels in Germany reverted to the roughly $2 billion normal range typical before 2019. Chinese investment in France mounted a comeback in 2020 after falling precipitously in 2019 thanks to a few major completed acquisitions. Investment in Poland focused on a single major warehouse portfolio acquisition, while in Sweden there continues to be sustained Chinese investment above historical averages.

With the uncertainty of Brexit, persistent Chinese restrictions on outbound transactions in real estate and other service sectors, and increasing tensions with China, the United Kingdom fell to the fifth among European countries this year with only about $427 million of investment through a few smaller completed M&A deals like Jingye Group/British Steel. But a major billion-dollar Huawei greenfield R&D investment announced in June suggests Chinese firms are still interested in the UK and will bolster future totals if it comes to fruition. Levels of Chinese investment in Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands also fell to very low levels.

Compared to North America, Chinese M&A transactions in Europe targeted medium-sized companies across a broader spectrum of industries. The top deals by investment size included targets like a warehouse network in Poland and a few other Central European nations (GLP, $1.1 billion), Germany’s Steigenberger Hotels AG (Huazhu Group, $780 million), France’s Asteelflash (Universal Scientific Industrial, $422 million), National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Evergrande, $380 million), and France’s Maxeon Solar Technologies (Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor, $300 million).

There were also large multi-year greenfield projects announced during the year such as SVolt Energy Technology’s announced $2.4 billion battery plant in Germany slated to open in late 2023.

EU-China Investment Deal

The proposed CAI Deal will facilitate minor additional opening of the EU market to Chinese investors. The European market was already very open to Chinese and other foreign capital. The CAI commits the EU to further open its energy sector, with the focus on retail and wholesale, but excluding trading platforms.

The CAI will not limit EU member states in deploying defensive measures including FDI screening, legislation to address subsidy distortions in the Single Market, the adoption of a more restrictive procurement regime and its push to reduce risks related to 5G.

“While regulatory and political headwinds for Chinese investors in the EU will persist and the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment is not an instant game-changer, it does send a strong signal that Chinese investment is welcome in Europe, which is likely to positively impact investor psychology,” said Thomas Gilles, chair of Baker McKenzie’s EMEA-China Group. “That, combined with potential political encouragement by Beijing, could help revive Chinese FDI in Europe and reverse the downward trend since 2017.”

Outlook brightening?

“Recent signals – most importantly the transition to a new US administration and a successful conclusion of the CAI – point toward a more constructive global environment for Chinese companies compared to the previous four years, which could help improve investor sentiment and risk appetite,” said Tracy Wut, Baker McKenzie’s head of M&A for Hong Kong and China.

Additionally, China’s current account surplus ballooned in 2020 as global travel halted Chinese overseas tourism spending while Chinese exports recovered before many other nations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This has put appreciating pressure on the renminbi and is creating an opportunity for China to allow more capital outflows, including outbound M&A.

Finally, Chinese investors will have more transparency on ‘red lines’ in overseas jurisdictions as new investment screening regimes are settling: “Tougher investment screening rules and related policies have substantially increased regulatory risks and uncertainty for Chinese investors, especially in data, technology, infrastructure, and related areas in recent years,” says Sylwia Lis, an international trade partner in Baker McKenzie’s Washington, DC office. “Additional uncertainties came through ad-hoc tightening of review criteria in many jurisdictions during the height of the pandemic. Looking ahead, while foreign investment review rules and practices will undoubtedly continue to evolve, some of the uncertainty around new regulatory regimes is easing as legislation has been implemented and regimes become functional.”

Latham & Watkins advises Tencent Music on its investment in Wave

Latham & Watkins advised Tencent Music Entertainment Group (“Tencent Music” or “TME”), the leading online music entertainment platform in China, on its minority equity investment in Wave, the market leader in interactive virtual entertainment experiences. The deal will enable TME to air Wave experiences in China across all of its platforms including QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music, and WeSing.

Additionally, this collaboration will allow the two companies to develop virtual concert content for TME Live, an innovative live performance brand under TME, which pioneers the integration of offline concerts with an online experience.

The Latham deal team was led by Hong Kong corporate partner Frank Sun, with Beijing associate Jason Zhao. Advice on CFIUS matters was provided by Washington, D.C. partner Steven Croley, counsel Rachel Alpert, and associate Tahura Lodhi; and on IP matters by Hong Kong associate Kieran Donovan.

Consumer mobility shifts as the global pandemic forces change

The acceleration of consumer mobility preferences have rapidly shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Strategy& report. The findings from Strategy&’s 9th annual Digital Auto Report focus on how Connected, Automated, Smart Mobility and Electric (CASE) strategies have had to be re-evaluated due to the global pandemic.

As a result of shifting mobility modes, the survey findings reveal most consumers are hesitant to use shared transportation. Consumers prefer to use their own vehicle over shared mobility and public transportation as a result of COVID-19. Shared mobility decreased the most in Germany with 77% of respondents intending to use less car sharing while the same holds true in both the US (56%) and in China (51%). In both China and the United States, consumers prefer the use of their own vehicle, while in Germany, the increase of commuting in cars is still equal to commuting on both bike and foot. Overall, seamless mobility solutions are still key for consumers.

Additionally, the total number of vehicles is expected to decrease in Europe (-1.2%) and increase in both the United States (+1.1%) and China (+3.9%) until 2035. This is primarily due to mobility growth (highest in China), consumer preferences for shared mobility (lowest in United States) and the average life of a vehicle until it is deposed (highest in Europe).

Though mobility preferences are changing, shared mobility providers can take steps to win back consumers, such as regular cleaning and disinfection. Consumers shared that these things are more important than lower prices in light of the pandemic.

Safety and navigation rank the highest for consumers, followed closely by vehicle management and vehicle features as a service. While connected services are important, the survey findings reveal that only consumers primarily in China (58%) are willing to pay for these services.

Gasoline continues to be the most preferred powertrain in both Germany and the United States. In China, 68% of consumers under the age of 40 prefer electric powertrains, while only 46% in Germany and 37% in the United States prefer electric powertrains.

Anil Khurana, PwC Global Leader, Industrial Manufacturing & Automotive comments, “Consumers’ mobility preferences are rapidly changing based on comfortability and technology. It’s paramount that the mobility industry quickly adapts to the new needs and expectations of consumers. CASE technologies and COVID-19 are game changers that will have lasting effects for years to come.”

Hogan Lovells advises Ingredion on its £185 million acquisition

International law firm Hogan Lovells has advised NYSE-listed firm Ingredion, a leader in the plant-based ingredient solutions market, on its £185 million acquisition of PureCircle, a London-listed producer of stevia sweeteners. The acquisition advances Ingredion’s specialties strategy for sugar reduction and will support future sales growth.

The takeover was implemented by way of a scheme of arrangement with PureCircle shareholders having the option to receive cash or shares in the Ingredion Bidco. Ingredion have also invested a further US$130 million into PureCircle by means of an equity injection, and a result of this acquisition will control 75 percent of PureCircle. The transaction was announced in April, though completion was subject to the satisfaction of a number of conditions, including obtaining antitrust clearance in the United States.

The corporate team was led by corporate partners Maegen Morrison (in London), together with Bill Curtin and Richard Parrino, based in Washington, D.C. They were supported by teams in China, the United States, Belgium and London across a variety of practice areas including antitrust, corporate, data protection, employment, employee share schemes, IP, real estate, and pensions.

Commenting on the deal, partner Maegen Morrison said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Ingredion on its first public acquisition in the UK. The transaction is yet another example of the breadth and depth of our global practice and our ability as a firm to work seamlessly across jurisdictions and practices, in close conjunction with our client’s legal and deal teams, even when working remotely.”

Global Head of M&A, Bill Curtin added: “We are honoured to serve as M&A counsel to Ingredion, drawing upon our ability to execute cross-border transactions in regulated industries and by providing our global resources to promote our clients’ continuing success.”