GAR 100 - 16th Edition

Drew & Napier

Drew & Napier

Professional notice

Won damages for a Chinese client over an Indian coal-powered power plant

People in Who’s Who Legal1
People in Future Leaders2
Pending cases as counsel41
Value of pending counsel workUS$5.12 billion
Treaty cases as counsel11
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments23 (17 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator6

This Singapore firm, which can trace its origins back to the arrival of the first qualified lawyer in British Malaya in 1889, prides itself on being one of the largest players in the local arbitration market. The firm operates as an LLC with directors rather than partners and has three senior counsel.

The department has grown in sync with Singapore’s emergence as a centre for international cases, and it is an important player in set-aside and enforcement proceedings in the local courts. It is also popular with international firms, which frequently instruct Drew & Napier as co-counsel for arbitrations seated in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and India.

Several of the senior names sit as arbitrators. Cavinder Bull SC, CEO of the firm and one of the practice’s senior counsel, is the best-known name internationally. Bull is a former vice president of the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group and former deputy chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). He is currently a vice president of the SIAC Court of Arbitration.

Other names to know include chair of the firm and managing director of the practice, Jimmy Yim SC, deputy managing director Randolph Khoo, and directors Siraj Omar SC and Blossom Hing. The firm’s multilingual directors allow it to take on arbitrations in English, Mandarin and Russian.

Who uses it?

Asian multinationals and high-net-worth individuals are regular Drew & Napier clients. Major Malaysian clients of note include Berjaya Corporation, Sapura Industrial and Petra Energy.

It has worked for Japanese corporations Toshiba and Sharp, China National Petroleum Company, Asia Pacific Export, Singapore hotel group Amara, Norway’s Nexans, Rosneft subsidiary Tomskneft, Longzhou Oilfield Services, Australian iron ore miner Roy Hill and the government of Laos.

Track record

One of the firm’s most memorable results was helping to annul the bulk of a US$100 million SIAC award relating to the acquisition of steel assets in the Philippines. Drew & Napier was not involved in the arbitration, but assisted a consortium including the Philippine National Bank in its challenge to the award.

The firm represented Laos in part of a sprawling dispute with the former owners of a casino, helping the government prevail in a SIAC claim concerning breach of a settlement agreement. Laos won US$14 million, defeated a counterclaim for nearly US$400 million and obtained a ruling that the other side’s counsel team made misrepresentations.

For a Liechtenstein-registered developer, the firm settled two UNCITRAL claims against the Maldives. The claims, which totalled US$150 million, concerned construction agreements for the development of sites on two islands.

Recent events

Drew & Napier acted alongside Indian firm Trilegal to secure a US$146 million SIAC award for Shanghai Electric in a dispute with India’s Reliance Infrastructure. The Chinese power company won damages for outstanding payments over a coal-fired power plant project in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Working with Seoul firm KL Partners, Drew & Napier helped South Korea’s DL E&C (formerly Daelim) defeat a US$183 million damages claim by India’s state-owned ONGC Petro additions Limited – even though the client lost on liability. The firm is continuing to defend ONGC’s challenge to the award in the Singaporean courts.

The firm had less success for Singapore-registered IPTV services provider Vodoke that saw its US$34.5 million SIAC claim against Malaysia’s state-owned telecoms company for over a collaboration agreement dismissed. Laos used the firm to defend two favourable investment treaty awards in another iteration of the above-mentioned casino dispute, with the Singapore International Commercial Court agreeing that arbitrators have a “public duty” to review evidence of corruption presented to them. The firm won again on appeal – and successfully defended the related SIAC award in the same court.

Pani Bersama Tambang, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Merdeka Copper Gold, has instructed the firm in a US$600 million SIAC arbitration over the collapse of a deal to combine two mining projects into a single ownership group.

The firm’s recent instructions also include acting for Indian companies in a US$600 million SIAC arbitration against a Korean state-owned company over a coal-powered power plant.

Mahesh Rai is leading a team defending an Asian conglomerate in two SIAC arbitrations worth US$400 million over the distribution of goods in the Middle East.

Drew & Napier is also representing a beverages group in SIAC proceedings seeking to terminate two joint ventures in Myanmar over concerns about its local partner’s links to the military that seized power in the country in 2021. It is also acting for an Asian agribusiness group in a claim against a Myanmar sugar producer over their joint venture. Director Kevin Lee has been instructed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to advise on arbitration-related matters concerning its 10 member states. He was previously instructed by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to advise on arbitration matters concerning an electricity trading treaty.

Bull was appointed chair of the NAFTA tribunal that rejected California-based Tennant Energy’s claim that a secret club of Canadian politicians and officials had prioritised other investors in an Ontario wind farm project.

Client comment

Dutch construction company Boskalis, which the firm helped in arbitration and settlement proceedings against an Indonesian joint venture partner, praises director Rai for his “diligent and precise” work.

David Branson, a US lawyer who has been coordinating Laos’s legal strategy in the casino dispute, says Drew & Napier is “first rate, producing exceptional briefs”. He names Bull and director Gerui Lim as key players in the proceedings.

Drew & Napier has provided exceptional legal advice and representation to discerning clients since 1889 and is one of the largest law firms in Singapore. The calibre of our work is acknowledged internationally at the highest levels of government and industry and marks us as Singapore’s world class law firm. We are trusted by our clients to solve their most challenging problems, advance their interests, and show them the way forward. Our lawyers and senior counsel are the preferred choice when the stakes are high and the issues complex. Our clients consistently vote our lawyers to the highest ranks of their practice areas. We stay at the forefront of the industry by cultivating talent and maintaining the family atmosphere that is distinctly Drew.

Our Dispute Resolution practice is consistently singled out as unparalleled, achieving top tier rankings in prestigious international publications for over a decade. Our International Arbitration Practice has been similarly identified among the world’s top 100 practices by the Global Arbitration Review since 2010.

We are pre-eminent in Competition & Antitrust, Corporate Insolvency & Restructuring, Intellectual Property (Patents and Trade Marks), Tax and Telecommunications, Media & Technology, and have market leading practices in Mergers & Acquisitions, Banking & Finance, and Capital Markets.

The firm has been named China Practice, Asian Law Firm of the Year 2021, Singapore Litigation Law Firm of the Year 2021, Regional Litigation Law Firm of the Year 2021, International Arbitration Law Firm of the Year 2021, India Practice, Asian Law Firm of the Year 2019 and South East Asia Law Firm of the Year 2017 by Asian Legal Business (ALB). ALB also named Drew & Napier as Employer of Choice for the 12 years. The Legal 500 named the firm Litigation Team of the Year at its inaugural Southeast Asia Awards 20/21.

In 2020, Drew & Napier united with some of the most influential leading law firms in Southeast Asia to form a network of blue-chip law firms - Drew Network Asia (DNA). Comprising of legal powerhouses Makarim & Taira S. from Indonesia, Shearn Delamore & Co. from Malaysia, and Martinez Vergara & Gonzalez Sociedad from the Philippines, alongside Drew & Napier, DNA is a cohesive and integrated team operating as “a firm of firms” with international perspective and strong local expertise.

Each DNA firm upholds a stellar reputation of providing clients with world-class service standards and seamless legal advice. We take immense pride in dispensing top-notch legal advice and cutting-edge solutions for our clients. Our approach has earned plaudits from clients and trade publications alike. Each pillar firm consistently garners prominent accolades and top rankings in the world’s most prestigious legal publications.

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