UK-based Allen & Overy (A&O) said it has opened its sixth office in the ASEAN region in Yangon, becoming the latest in the line of international law firms that are swarming into Myanmar to tap the last economic frontier.
The new office will be managed by Simon Makinson, Allen & Overy ASEAN group chairman, who has led the firm’s push into Myanmar when sanctions began to lift two years ago.
“Through this investment, we believe we can not only play a role in helping Myanmar with its legal framework, we can also help clients across our global network better understand the mechanics and nuances of what has been, up until recently, an unknown quantity from an international investment point of view,” Makinson said.
He said from when the firm began work in the market two years ago “we’ve been extremely busy with a multi-faceted approach to the market.”
Last year, A&O, which is one of the so-called “magic circle” firms, helped its long-standing Norwegian client Telenor to win one of two telecoms licences granted to foreign companies allowing it to provide telecommunications services in Myanmar. “Our work for this client continues with network deployment,” Makinson said.
“On the client side we are advising across all active sectors with the ‘big ticket’ deal to date being our work for Telenor.
“Besides telecoms, we have also been active in banking and finance, energy including oil and gas, infrastructure, manufacturing and consumer goods.”
US OFAC and EU sanctions advice also feature prominently across all sectors in the firm’s portfolio of experience, he said.
While risk is still a key factor for corporations looking to invest in Myanmar, the business and legal framework for opportunity is improving day-by-day, Makinson added.
“In terms of industry development, we have been active in the power sector, working with developers and multilaterals, including assisting with the development of a standardised power purchase agreement for all electricity sales.”
The firm is also a member of the UK-Myanmar Financial Services Task Force reviewing Myanmar’s banking regulations.
There are two other senior lawyers and three business services staff on the ground, as well as a team of sector specialists made up of partners and lawyers from the firm’s Bangkok and Singapore offices, A&O said.
“Having people on the ground, alongside the contacts and goodwill we have established over the past two years, has been critical in enabling us to advance,” Makinson said.
This latest opening takes the firm’s office count to 12 in Asia-Pacific, augmenting its existing ASEAN offering which includes offices in Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Jakarta.
On the pro bono side, the firm has rolled out educational programmes for government and regulatory agencies, members of the local legal profession and law students to help build Myanmar’s foreign investment know-how. This has been developed in partnership with the Myanmar Attorney-General’s Office and the University of Oxford.
Established in 1930, A&O operates 43 offices in 30 countries with approximately 2,821 lawyers and 5,077 employees, and revenue of about £1.19 billion ($2.01 billion).