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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Drew & Napier

18 February 2016

One of Singapore’s oldest firms has a large following among Asian multinationals

People in Who’s Who Legal 2
Pending cases as counsel 50
Value of pending counsel work US$11.7 billion
Current arbitrator appointments 13 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 6

The firm, which can trace its origins back to the arrival of the first qualified lawyer in the former British colony of Malay in 1859, prides itself on being one of the largest players in the Singapore arbitration market. Six senior counsel devote substantial time to the area – all of them home-grown.

The department has grown in sync with Singapore’s emergence as a centre for international cases and several of the senior names sit as arbitrators.

Cavinder Bull SC, one of the senior partners in the practice, is the best known name internationally. He’s vice president of the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group and deputy chairman of SIAC. Other names to know include Davinder Singh SC and Jimmy Yim SC.

Who uses it?

Asian multinationals, to a large extent. For example, the firm is advising an Indonesian conglomerate on a property development dispute and recently counselled an Indian investment company on a telecoms case. It boasts a number of major Malaysian clients including Berjaya Group, automotive manufacturer Sapura Industrial and oil and gas company Petra Energy.

It has also worked for a French pharmaceutical company, Norway’s Nexans, Rosneft subsidiary Tomskneft, CISCO, the World Sport Group and the government of Laos.

Track record

In 2012, Cavinder Bull SC and his team helped Singapore’s main power provider settle an US$80 million dispute with Australian listed company Downer over the construction of an underground electrical services tunnel. The Australian side reportedly paid US$40 million to settle the dispute.

Recent events

Cavinder Bull achieved a spectacular victory for Laos in early 2015, persuading the Singapore High Court to overturn an UNCITRAL tribunal’s jurisdictional ruling that the China-Laos bilateral investment treaty also applies to Macao. The case is part of a billion-dollar dispute over investments in Laos’s gambling sector.

The firm also had a hand in a semi-win for secured creditors on the wrong side of a US$104 million SIAC award. The Court of Appeal partially upheld a ruling of the Singapore Appeal High Court to set aside the award in favour of companies affiliated with Indian steel magnate Pramod Mittal – holding that US$80 million of damages should be cancelled but he rest reinstated.

The case was a highly complex one with most of Singapore’s major law firms involved on one side or another.

New instructions include acting for Rosneft unit Tomskneft in resisting enforcement of a US$200 million ICC award in favour of former Yukos subsidiary Yukos capital. It is also acting for a Mauritian affiliate of India’s World Sport Group in an ICC claim against Sony subsidiary MSM Satellite in a dispute over the broadcasting rights to the Indian Premier League.

Outside of arbitration, it is acting in the first case filed before the Singapore International Commercial Court.

In its most recent promotions round in May the firm promoted a new equity director, Chia Voon Jiet, and four new directors: Foo Yuet Min, Rakesh Kirpalani, James Low and Daniel Soo. It also made up six new associate directors.

Client comment

Laos’ chief counsel in the Sanum case David Branson credits the firm for his client’s jurisdictional victory in the Singapore courts, calling Cavinder Bull – “one of the finest advocates, clear, precise, and extraordinarily well prepared. His knowledge of the record and the law is unsurpassed”. He also praises the “excellent” Gerui Lim.

A Chinese geophysical services client praises the group’s response time, business acumen, industry knowledge and appropriate advice. It has a good overall strategy and lawyers work well in both English and Chinese, saving time and misunderstandings, the client says. It singles out Julian Kwek, Rakesh Kirpalani and Teri Cheng for their “professional and efficient service.”

A client who retained the firm for a technology implementation and operations dispute describes the firm’s performance as “extraordinary” given the highly technical nature of the matter. It says the team trawled through masses of documentation and dived deep into each issue.

As well as lead counsel Jimmy Yim, the client praises Erroll Joseph and Mahesh Rai: “Both expressed a commendable level of personal engagement and were always available to provide support, guidance and direction from start to end.”

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