Myanmar

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Competition authority: Directorate of Investment and Company Administration

Financial regulator: Central Bank of Myanmar

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Financial and corporate (published October) – Financial and corporate, Project development

Jurisdiction overview

As Myanmar emerged from five decades of military rule that cut it off from much of the rest of the world, the resource rich country started to open up in 2011 with a series of far-reaching political and legal reforms to achieve rule of law and provide more legal certainty for its people and investors.

Previously known as Burma, the country has seen US and EU sanctions eased and increasing interest from the international business community. It appears to be looking forward to a period of relative peace and prosperity. 

Some big international law firms have committed to Myanmar by opening an office in Yangon, including Allen & Overy in 2013 and Baker & McKenzie in 2014. This year, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) opened its doors in the country by hiring Baker & McKenzie’s former managing partner Chris Hughes to lead its newly opened office in Yangon. 

Domestic law firms have also sought out new opportunities, with NK Legal Myanmar integrating into the wider regional network of Singapore firm Rajah & Tann, while Myanmar Legal Service affiliated itself with Thai firm Chandler & Thong-Ek Law.

But Myanmar’s local legal sector is underdeveloped and there is no national bar association for legal practitioners in the country. With the assistance of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Myanmar’s lawyers ran an election in September this year for their first ever independent national professional organisation to represent lawyers.

Once known for its poor human rights record, media censorship and tyranny under military rule, the regime has been left with many old laws that were set up to give leaders’ extensive powers to target political opposition and ethnic insurgents. 

Candy Chan - Journalist - Asia-Pacific

Financial and corporate
Allen & Gledhill

One of the most well-regarded names in the Myanmar legal market, Allen & Gledhill provides market-leading advice in Myanmar and, through the Allen & Gledhill network, across the region. Led by managing partner Minn Naing Oo, the firm’s Myanmar office boasts the largest number of legal professionals among local law firms.

The firm excels in the financial and corporate space and has a strong projects offering. Sectors of focus include insurance, infrastructure, power, hospitality, oil and gas, and technology and telecommunication.

Key clients include New Yangon Development Co, PTT Public Company, AYA Myanmar Insurance, Grand Guardian Nippon Life Insurance Company, and AYA Financial Group, Kanbawza Bank.

During the research period the firm was notably active on corporate and M&A mandates in the insurance sector, often acting for joint venture parties and targets.

A highlight on the projects side saw the firm act for The New Yangon Development Co on the high profile development of New Yangon City.

 

Deal highlights

Kanbawza Group / PTT Public Company joint venture

New Yangon City

Nippon Life Insurance Company $21 million acquisition of Grand Guardian Nippon Life Insurance Company

 

Client feedback

Banking

"Integrity, reliability and quality. They are highly responsive to cost and time constraints."

Thorough, professional in their job and timely delivery.”

“Comprehensive suite of services, promptness, responsiveness and offer good legal advice.”

“It has a strong team on the ground which understand the ground situation and is able to move things fast.”

“Fast responses and a 100% success rate in results.”

 

Financial and corporate

“Good understanding of local laws and good at closing contracts.”

 

Financial services regulatory

“Highly responsive with comprehensive advice, with regards to local culture and regulatory working insights.”

“Strong Insurance domain expertise by Oh's team, the had the ability to quickly diagnose crux issues and propose legal solutions / clauses to safeguard our position.”

 

Private equity

“Ability to maintain consistent quality, position and standards with Allen & Gledhill HQ in Singapore.”

 

Hilary Ann Tseng

“Attentive to client's needs and to details. Generally responsive to feedback, makes effort to improve and is able to handle difficult stakeholders on client's behalf.”

 

Lee Jun Yee

“Knowledgeable and responsive.”

 

Minn Naing Oo

“Integrity, responsiveness, knowledge and the ability to solve problems.”

“Excellent relationship with regulators and clients.”

“Highly responsive and able to offer practical advice with appropriate risk considerations and highlight of local regulatory sensitivities.”

“Great client relationship management, very helpful, knowledgeable and strong connections.”

“Attentive to client's needs and to details. Generally responsive to feedback, makes effort to improve and is able to handle difficult stakeholders on client's behalf.”

“Knowledge and good interpersonal skills.”

 

Oh Hsiu Hau

“Ability to quickly diagnose crux issues and offer legal solutions / clauses to safeguard our position.”

 

Dentons Myanmar

Multinational law firm Dentons’ Myanmar office is located in Yangon.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is recognised for its work in the financial and corporate space.

 

Key clients

Key clients include Daung Capital Company.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period, the firm acted for a local microfinance company on regulatory compliance work.

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“Timeliness and availability in addressing our concerns quickly. Timely delivery.”

“Reasonable fee arrangement.”

“Commercial and solution-oriented - able to navigate all parties through the many different and intertwining Myanmar regulations (involving 5 different ministries) to achieve the desired result.”

“Prompt responses, clear advice, and good follow-up.”

“The branch in Myanmar is approachable and practical. They acted quickly as soon as we reach an agreement over fees and approach.”

 

Duane Morris & Selvam

With an office in Yangon since 2013, Duane Morris & Selvam is the first US firm to establish an office in the country. The firm boasts a team of six partners and eight qualified lawyers. The firm holds the distinction of being the only foreign law firm to receive the Distinguished Service to Myanmar award from Myanmar’s attorney general.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm has a strong financial and corporate practice and a well-established project development practice. It is experienced in providing advice on matters including corporate advisory, regulatory compliance, market-entry, project development, and banking and finance.

 

Key clients

Key clients include Sembcorp Utilities, OIL India, State Bank of India, Htoo Group and Ponna International.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

An eye-catching deal saw the banking and finance team advise Sembcorp Utilities on the high-value financing of the largest gas-fired power station to date in Myanmar. This was also the first internationally competitively tendered power project in the country and the first project-financed BOT power project deal in Myanmar.

On the corporate side, the firm was often engaged by international and domestic companies on regulatory compliance matters. A confidential highlight saw the firm advise a foreign client on an investment in the energy sector. 

An interesting projects deal saw the firm advise a local company on the development of a utilities project.

A staffing change saw the departure of director Mark Wong who joined Shook Lin & Bok.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Myingyan gas fired power plant

SDCI (Myanmar) restructuring

Kelvin Chia Yangon

Active in Myanmar since 1995, Kelvin Chia Yangon is one of the largest and oldest international law firms operating in the jurisdicition. The firm maintains offices in Yangon and Mandalay.

The firm is recognised for its strong financial and corporate and project development practices. The firm advises across an array of industries including real estate, infrastructure, logistics, food and beverages, and banking.

The firm counts Ayala Corporation as a client.

During the research period the firm often took on buy-side roles on acquisitions and lender side roles on financings. Additionally, the firm advised on several joint ventures and also took on regulatory compliance work. A highlight saw the firm advising the acquirer in the largest foreign direct investment made by a Philippine company into Myanmar. On the projects side the firm acted for a Thai company on the development of a smart city.

 

Deal highlights

Ayala Corporation $237.5 million acquisition of 20% stake in Yoma Strategic Holdings and 20% stake in First Myanmar Investment

Yangon Amata Smart & Eco City

 

Rajah & Tann Myanmar

Regional firm Rajah & Tann’s Myanmar office is led by managing partner Min Thein. Membership of the Rajah & Tann Asia network allows the firm to provide comprehensive legal advice to clients across the region.

The firm is a consistent performer in the financial and corporate and project development practice areas. The firm has experience in advising across a range of industry sectors including insurance, hospitality, real estate, logistics, food and beverages, healthcare, technology and telecommunication, and energy. The firm has built a robust Japanese practice and often acts for clients based there with interests in Myanmar.

The firm’s client list includes names such as Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, Yangon Metropolitan Development, Eco World Developer Holding, Myanmar Distribution Group, and Myanmar Ministry of Planning and Finance.

The firm had a busy research period in corporate and M&A, acting for buyers, sellers and joint venture partners. A newsworthy mandate saw the firm advise a foreign acquirer in a first of its kind acquisition in the insurance sector. A highlight in the projects space saw the firm advising a consortium of foreign investors on the development of Myanmar’s first-ever transit-oriented development.

The firm’s financial and corporate practice was hit by the departure of senior partner U Nyein Kyaw, who left the firm after Rajah & Tann Myanmar and NK Legal parted ways.

 

Deal highlights

S Hotels and Resorts Public Company / Eco World Developer joint venture

Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance $60 million acquisition of stake in AYA Myanmar Insurance

Yangon Metropolitan Development / Berjaya Land joint venture

 

 

Client feedback

M&A

"R&T is very knowledgeable in their field and their explanations are always very clear. What I like the most from them is that I could contact them very easily and they respond within my expectations."

 

Project development

“Provides practical solutions.”

 

Lester Chua

“He is up-to-date on the latest changes regarding Myanmar's legal and government matters. I can also call him almost each time I message him.”

 

Hiroyuki Ota

“He speaks fluent Japanese and English.”

WongPartnership

A member of the WPG regional network, WongPartnership in Myanmar is ranked among the top tier firms in the financial and corporate space. The firm has an office in Yangon.

The firm takes on clients from a diverse range of sectors including construction and engineering, aviation, telecommunication, real estate, hospitality, and food and beverages.

Key clients include Singapore Airlines, Chip Eng Seng Corporation, Sodexo Services Asia, Denko Petrochemical Management, and Andaman Alliance Healthcare.

Highlights from the past year include buy-side roles on acquisitions; roles for borrowers and lenders on project financing and refinancing deals; advice on joint ventures; and advice on the development of real estate and healthcare projects.

 

Deal highlights

Chip Eng Seng Construction S$50.1 million acquisition of Sembcorp Design and Construction

Sodexo Denko Petroleum Company $25 million loan facility

Services Asia acquisition of a 61.8% stake in Active Global Health Sciences Education Group

 

Client feedback

Banking

“Good response time and thorough work.”

 

M&A

"The firm's strengths include, among other things, good understanding of differences in corporate cultures/strategies and willingness to provide support, and a partner, Ms Suegene ANG is very good at giving simple/easy-to-understand explanations on rather complex issues and is fast to accurately understand our issues (considering our limited English communication skill)."

 

Karina Peng

“Karina is very thorough.”

 

Suegene Ang

“Ms ANG has good understanding of the country's legal system as well as how business is run in the country, and is very good at giving simple/easy-to-understand explanations on rather complex issues and is fast to accurately understand our issues (considering our limited English communication skill).”

Baker McKenzie

Multinational law firm Baker McKenzie’s Yangon office was established in 2014 and is led by managing partner Andre Gan.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is active in the financial and corporate space. It takes on work in a variety of industry sectors including technology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, media and insurance.

 

Key clients

The firm’s client list includes names such as Yoma Strategic Holdings and Prudential Holdings. 

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

The firm was often engaged by foreign clients to advise on regulatory compliance matters across a range of industries. The firm also took on buy and sell-side roles on acquisitions.

Staffing changes saw the addition of corporate partner Kenneth See from Yoma Strategic, while managing partner Jo Daniels left the firm.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Yoma Strategic Holdings S$12.6 million acquisition of a 65% stake in Yankin Kyay Oh Group of Companies

DFDL

Active in Myanmar since the 1990s, DFDL in Myanmar has a team of 25 lawyers in two offices in Yangon and Naypyidaw. The firm’s Myanmar team is led by managing director William Greenlee.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is recognised for its strong financial and corporate and project development practices. 

Projects work is at the core of the firm’s Myanmar practice, and the firm is experienced in serving as both local and international counsel across a variety of sectors including energy, natural resources and mining, and infrastructure.

The firm has further differentiated itself with the addition of foreign desks for India, Bhutan, Korea, and China.

 

Key clients

Key clients include Overseas Private Investment Corporation, AIA Group, International Finance Corporation, Hyundai Motors, ANZ, and State Bank of India.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

The firm often took on mandates involving market entry and regulatory compliance. A noteworthy highlight saw the firm advise a Japanese insurance company in obtaining the first foreign life insurance business licence in Myanmar. Another highlight saw the firm advise on the landmark financing of a real estate developer. The banking and finance team was also active in the aviation sector, acting for clients including banks, lessors and airlines in several aircraft leasing matters.

Another interesting mandate saw the firm advise an international insurance company in a landmark joint venture with a domestic bank. The firm also notably acted for the acquirer in one of the first M&A transactions in the logistics sector.

In the projects space, the firm was recently active for bidders in a confidential project in the infrastructure sector.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Meeyahta Development financing

SF Holding $4 million acquisition of a minority stake in Kospa

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“DFDL provides timely and concise advise on pertinent matters relating to our business. They also execute in a timely fashion.”

“Involvement, dedication, and process.”

 

Lincoln Legal Services (Myanmar)

Founded in 2016, Lincoln Legal Services is headquartered in Yangon. Key figures include partners Sebastian Pawlita and Nyein Chan Zaw.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is noted for its financial and corporate and project development practices.

Sectors of focus include real estate, mining, oil and gas, hospitality, and logistics.

 

Key clients

Notable clients include Siam Makro, Mytel, Asia Resources Development, Oswal Group Global, NFunctions Myanmar Company, AB sMart, and The Blue Circle.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period, the firm was often active in the retail sector and notably advised a foreign client in the largest roll-out of foreign-invested cash and carry outlets in the country to date.

In the projects space, the firm was active in a variety of sectors, including mining, power, and manufacturing. A highlight saw the firm advise a foreign manufacturer in establishing a landmark ethanol plant.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Magway 175MW solar plant

Shan State 250 KLPD ethanol plant

Siam Makro wholesale and retail centres

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“Sebastian P is extremely responsive and knowledgeable in nearly all aspects of Myanmar commercial law. If he does not know the answer, he will find it and provide sound commercial advice that weighs the risks in a country where the laws can be murky.”

 

Project development

“Their excellent service with in-depth knowledge and local insights!”

“The firm always provides prompt feedback. It has extensive legal knowledge about doing business in Myanmar. The advice is always practical. Where an issue is unclear, it also goes the extra mile to consult with the local authorities to get things done/ or provide practical advice to its client.”

Mayer Brown

Global law firm Mayer Brown has a strong track record in the projects space in Myanmar. Key figures include Singapore partners Ben Thompson and Nathan Dodd.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm has a special focus on the power sector and has a history of advising clients such as lenders and sponsors on landmark transactions.

 

Key clients

Key clients include the Asian Development Bank, IFC, OCBC, DBS Bank, Kansai Electric Power, AIIB, and Powergen Kyaukse Company.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

The firm had a standout year with roles on several high-profile mandates. A representative mandate saw the firm advise the sponsors on the development of Myanmar's largest hydropower project to be financed by international sponsors on a project financing basis. Another highlight saw the firm act for the lenders on the country’s first internationally competitively tendered power project. The firm also notably acted for the sponsors on the first Myanmar bank project financing deal.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Kyaukse 145MW natural gas-fired temporary power plant

Myingyan 225MW gas-fired power plant

Shweli-3 671MW hydropower plant

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“Extremely responsive and commercial.”

“Commercial approach and knowledge of the market.”

 

Nishimura & Asahi

The Yangon office of Japanese firm Nishimura & Asahi opened in 2013 and is helmed by partner Yusuke Yukawa. The firm has strengthened its regional presence with offices in several major cities including Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Singapore.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is active in the financial and corporate and project development areas. It has significant experience advising on matters related to market entry, regulatory compliance, joint ventures and entity establishment.

Sectors of focus include healthcare, retail, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, banking and financial services, and real estate.

 

Key clients

Key clients include the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Ishii Hospital, KDDI Corporation, and Japan External Trade Organisation.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

A notable mandate in the banking space saw the firm advise the lender in a cross border refinancing.

During the research period, the firm often took on roles for Japanese clients. A representative mandate saw the firm advise a Japanese telecommunications company on regulatory compliance work. The firm was also active for foreign clients investing in domestic companies. 

The firm is also notably assisting with the drafting of the new insurance business law for Myanmar.

An interesting projects highlight saw the firm advise a Japanese client on establishing the first Japanese general hospital in Myanmar.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Ishii Hospital development

Thanlwin Legal

Founded in 2016, Thanlwin Legal has established itself as a consistent performer across the financial and prorate and project development spaces. The firm’s main office is located in Yangon and is led by managing partners Tseng Chin-Po and Chen Shu Yuan.

Sectors of focus include oil and gas, technology and telecommunication, energy, real estate, and transport.

Noteworthy clients include China Road and Bridge Corporation, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Huawei Technologies, Bank of China Hong Kong, KBZ Bank, and Great Wall Group.

During the research period the firm advised on borrowers and lenders on several project financing deals and was notably active in the projects space, advising on the development of several confidential landmark projects. An eye-catching deal saw the firm advising a real estate developer on developing a technology park in Myanmar.

A staffing change saw the departure of banking partner Mariano Suarez, who left for the Myanmar Legal Group.

 

Deal highlights

Kan Thar Yar Center

Muse-Mandalay Highway

Yangon - Htantabin Technology Park

 

Tilleke & Gibbins

Regional firm Tilleke & Gibbins’ Yangon office opened in 2013 and houses 12 attorneys under the leadership of director Yuwadee Theanngarm. Tilleke & Gibbins is a solid regional player with offices in jurisdictions including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm has a well-established financial and corporate practice and is also active in the project development space.

Sectors of activity include banking and financial services, fintech, energy, insurance, manufacturing, tourism, technology, media and telecommunications.

 

Key clients

Clients include KBZ Group, Anthem Asia Myanmar, and Piyawasa.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period, the firm was primarily active in the corporate and M&A space, taking on matters related to market entry, regulatory compliance, joint ventures, entity establishment and acquisitions.

Staffing changes saw the addition of Ross Taylor as counsel from SCM Legal, while counsel Timothy Wales retired from legal practice.

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“Exceptionally response above all other firms with great access to partners and clear and commercial advice.”

 

 

VDB Loi

Regional firm VDB Loi’s Myanmar offices are located in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. Key figures include Jean Loi, Edwin Vanderbruggen and Maxim Kobzev. The firm has offices throughout the region in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam. 

 

Focusses / specialisms

VDB Loi is well known for high quality financial and corporate and project development work. The firm is experienced in advising on an array of matters including mergers, acquisitions, financings, and infrastructure and energy projects.

Sectors of activity include energy, oil and gas, real estate, manufacturing, banking and financial services, and telecommunications.

 

Key clients

Notable client names include EDFI Management Company, FMO, Pernod Ricard, VPower and CNTIC.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

On the financial and corporate side, the firm often took on roles for lenders on financing transactions across different industry sectors. The firm also advised multiple clients on regulatory compliance matters. 

The projects team was recently active for a consortium of bidders on the first-ever operational LNG projects in Myanmar. The firm was also notably active on the development of the largest hydropower project in Myanmar.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Rakhine state LNG terminal

Shweli 3 hydropower plant

Yangon city / Rakhine state 1000MW LNG-to-power rental projects

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Financial and corporate

“They are responsive and commercial. They understand the needs of the client very well, which makes it easy for us as transaction counsel to work with them.”

“Highly client-oriented, high level of flexibility, strong execution power, and solid legal analysis and advice.”

ZICOlaw

Active in Myanmar since 2013, ZICO Law’s Myanmar office is located in Yangon. Key figures include executive chairman Maung Maung Thein and resident partner Geraldine Oh. The firm is a member of the ZICO Law network and is able to service clients throughout the region.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is recognised for its financial and corporate and project development practices.

It is experienced in advising on matters in a wide range of sectors including energy, real estate, transport, banking and financial services, and entertainment. 

 

Key clients

Key clients include Digital Money Myanmar, Supreme Group Trading and Myanmar-Singapore Industrial Park.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Highlights from the past year include regulatory compliance work; taking on buy and side roles on cross border acquisitions; advising on a joint venture in the energy sector; and advice on the development of an industrial park.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Hlegu Industrial Park development

Kyaukphyu 135MW combined gas turbine cycle power plant