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
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
Allen & Gledhill advises primarily on financial and corporate law in Myanmar. It advises on local and international law.
The firm has been involved in a few notable deals recently such as advising TMH Telecom on one of the first IPOs on the Yangon Stock Exchange and on the one of the largest M&A transactions between International Beverage Holdings, Myanmar Supply Chain, and Myanmar Distillery. Other interesting deal include Unilever’s joint venture with Europe & Asia Commercial.
Key clients include Unilever, International Beverage Holdings, and TMH Telecom.
"Highly responsive. Good, solid commercially-focused advice that is practical." – M&A, Banking and finance
Minn Naing Oo
"As above, highly responsive, great attention to detail, delivers solid commercially focused advice that is very practical in the context of a developing jurisdiction like Myanmar. Very very helpful at all times, and has very quickly gained the trust of many internal stakeholders other than myself."
Duane Morris & Selvam is active in financial and corporate and project development work.
The firm advised clients in the energy, infrastructure, and banking industries recently. The firm has advised on numerous energy transactions including the development of a gas-fired power plant in Myingyan and Global Power Synergy’s acquisition of two solar power plants. It also has advised for multinational companies attempting to enter the Myanmar market. It provided due diligence services for Intercontinental Hotel Groups as it began to expand into Myanmar.
Key clients include Intercontinental Hotel Groups, Global Power Synergy, Sembcorp Utilities, and SAP.
"Clear insights and feedback in working toward an outcome that is in our best interest and that is workable in a very complex environment." - Project development
"Country knowledge." – M&A
"Always gives quick responses in due course." - Financial services regulatory
Kelvin Chia is active in the financial and corporate and project development areas. It often assists foreign firms in navigating Myanmar regulations.
The firm specialises in infrastructure. It helped to obtain an investment permit for the JFE Meranti’s joint venture development of a steel factory in Myanmar. The firm has been involved in numerous other joint venture, foreign investments in Myanmar.
Key clients include SHC Capital Asia Limited, Yoma Strategic Holdings, Wilmar Myanmar Port Terminals, and JFE Meranti.
"As far as I know, the counsel is so punctual that he has never missed a deadline and has answered every assignment and each question made or raised by the client in due course, with outstanding speed and in a comprehensive a way. What is more, the counsel understands the needs of the client and has succeeded in catching up to the genuine intention of the client. The solutions he give us are always to the point and practical, but in line with the legal precedent, which means that his advice is creative and constructive but also always conservative and reliable. Also, his advice and legal expressions are accurate in detail, while his insight for the overall strategy or general view on the issue in question is always reliable and shows us a correct way. The counsel is very flexible in coordinating his time of conference, particularly on our urgent cases. Furthermore, the counsel is very loyal to the original budget the client suggests and the estimate he provides that he will sometimes give us complementary work for us but without deteriorating his quality of service. Overall, the counsel's work and ability is outstanding and excellent, and he is always the first option for the client to work with, particularly with respect to a complicated case which requires the highest professional skills. In conclusion, the client's satisfaction on the service so far provided by the Counsel is of the highest rate." – Capital markets, M&A
"Regional presence in Southeast Asia is a plus, as we have matters in neighboring countries which we require guidance upon from time to time. Very responsive to requests and provides sound legal guidance according to the letter of the law." - Project development, Restructuring and insolvency
"The firm has a long history in Myanmar. They have many experienced Myanmar lawyers who are well educated and trained, experienced foreign lawyers. They are quite familiar with representing foreign clients who invest from outside of Myanmar." - Project development, M&A
"Technically sound lawyer with creative solutions to problems. Highly competent and knowledgeable."
Cheah Swee Gim
"Very experienced. Able to work in a timely manner with satisfactory quality."
"A very seasoned lawyer who has deep experience in Myanmar work."
Gabriel Paolo de Guzman
"Very responsive, easy to work with, thorough and reliable."
Lincoln Legal Services is most active in project development where it provides due diligence services.
The firm specialises in infrastructure and real estate projects. The firm assisted in the downtown Yangon mixed-use development, the largest private property deal to date in Myanmar. It also helped obtain mining licences for Asia Resources Development in two large-scale mining projects. Other deals the firm has assisted in includes hotel, paper mill, and telecommunication tower development projects.
Key clients include Yoma Strategic Holdings, Asia Resources Development, Marriot, and Myanmar Infrastructure Group.
“Efficient and professional firm headed by a European lawyer with a depth of knowledge and experience in Myanmar. The firm offers reasonable rates.” - M&A
“The firm is always up-to-date with the latest legal developments. It conducts regular seminars for clients on key issues affecting their industry. The firm is also friendly and approachable.” - M&A
Mori Hamada & Matsumoto is most notable for its financial and corporate practice in Myanmar. Because its main office is in Japan, the firm mostly advises on cross-border deals involving Myanmar and Japanese law.
The firm has recently worked on numerous deals involving the Yangon Stock Exchange, advising on its operations as well as helping companies list on the exchange. The firm recently worked on drafting a concession agreement for a Myanmar port concession project.
The firm hired Win Naing as partner for its financial and corporate and project development practices.
Key clients include Yangon Stock Exchange and Japanese International Cooperation Agency.
Rajah & Tann is active in both project development and financial and corporate work. Most of the deals the firm advises for are cross-border.
The firm is specialised in Myanmar regulations and has advised for companies such as Forever Group on entering the Myanmar market. An interesting deal the firm advised for involved a local firm, Dagon International, buying out the investments of a foreign firm, Marubeni Corporation. The firm has also engaged in several development deals such as the development of low-income housing and infrastructure projects with the Yangon Regional Government and Yangon Metropolitan Development Co.
Key clients include Dagon International, Yangon Regional Government, and Yangon Metropolitan Development Co.
"R&T operates best for us in terms of timing, cost and advice." - Investment funds, Banking and finance
"Very responsive. Quick turnaround of documents. Give sound advice and recommendations based on their past experience with various issues. Good balance between legal and commercial considerations." - Project development, M&A
"Good availability and turnaround time."
Thanlwin Legal practices both financial and corporate law in its Myanmar practice.
The firm is active primarily in infrastructure and banking transactions. It advised on the potential development of the Bank of China Tower and in the company strategy for entering the Myanmar market. It has also assisted financial institutions such as E.SUN Bank in drafting loan facility agreements.
Key clients for the firm include Bank of China, China Nuclear Engineering Group, and E.SUN Bank.
“The firm has deep knowledge of local regulatory developments and connections with government agencies, which is critical in a country with lack of transparency. Despite the small size of the firm, it delivers the desired reports in a short turnaround time.” - Project development
Tilleke & Gibbins practices project development and financial corporate law. Much of the firm’s work spans over multiple jurisdictions.
The firm is especially active in the energy and telecommunications industries. It has advised on a number of deals in the renewable energy sector including the Thai-Myanmar JV solar facility project. In telecommunications, it helped Myanmar Information Highway in complying with local regulations while rapidly expanding its telecommunications operations.
Key clients include Myanmar Information Highway and PCL Holdings.
VDB Loi practices financial and corporate law in Myanmar, often acting as local counsel for international transactions. The firm has specialised groups in telecommunications, real estate, and energy.
The firm often provides regulatory advice such as obtaining an operating licence for ICBC, the first Chinese bank to receive one in Myanmar. It also acted as local counsel for Total Gas & Power and Siemens in the development of a 1230MW LNG-to-power project.
Key clients include ICBC, Total Gas & Power Limited, and Siemens.
WongPartnership is most notable in Myanmar for its financial and corporate practice.
The firm has been active in real estate, banking, and hospitality recently. An interesting deal the firm worked on was the Yangon mixed-use development project in which WongPartnership advised Pan Pacific Hospitality in a joint venture with Shwe Taung Junction City Development Co.
A key client for the firm is Pan Pacific Hospitality.
"WongPartnership Myanmar know about the situations (possibilities and risks) in Myanmar very well. They are able to analyse and provide possibilities of what could happen and what precautions should be taken to prevent all this." – Capital markets, M&A
"She has vast knowledge of Myanmar and Singapore rules and laws. She analyses every cases in a pragmatic manner and provides solutions (possibilities) on how to work around/on these cases."
ZICOlaw practices financial and corporate law in Myanmar.
The firm took on deals from various different industries including energy, healthcare, consumer products, and banking.
Within energy, the firm has advised on the financing of a few power plant development projects in the country. Additionally, within banking, the firm has advised on acquisition and financing deals.
Allen & Overy practices financial and corporate law in Myanmar from its Yangon office.
The firm is mostly active in energy and banking transactions. It has advised on numerous transactions for the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank on financing and project matters. One of these projects is the joint venture development of a mixed-use office space in Yangon. In energy, the firm advised in the development of an LNG-to-power project, the first of its kind in Myanmar.
Key clients include Siemens, International Finance Corporation, and Asian Development Bank.
Baker McKenzie advises on local and cross-border transactions. The firm has active financial and corporate and project development practices.
The firm advised several technology, consumer product, and telecommunications companies entering Myanmar. It also assisted Asian Development Bank in drafting several agreements related to the Yangon-Pathein Toll Road project.
Key clients include Asian Development Bank, Myanmar Ministry of Construction, and Yoma Bank.