Welcome from Hong Kong!
As the first quarter of 2019 has been a very active one for the Osborne Clarke team here, we wanted to use this inaugural “Letter from Hong Kong” as a means of sharing the news and changes it has brought.
Going forward, our aim is send out a quarterly newsletter and we are keen that its content focusses on those things that are relevant to you – so please do let us know of any particular topics or interest areas we can cover, to achieve that. We’d welcome your feedback.
Having patiently served out the three-year period required by local regulation since opening in Hong Kong, we were delighted to receive formal approval for the Hong Kong firm to be re-named “Osborne Clarke” in late February. This is an important milestone for the office and it enables us far better to offer and promote in this market and regionally the particular areas of expertise that Osborne Clarke is well respected for in Europe and the US.
To mark the occasion of the name-change, we held a reception at Duddells in Central when over 100 guests – clients, connections, journalists and friends – joined us for an excellent, relaxed (and very warm) evening, launching the Osborne Clarke brand here with gusto.
Asia IoT Report
The event also served as the formal publication of the market insight report we commissioned and had been working on with our other Osborne Clarke Asia offices for some months – “How will IoT transform industry in Asia? “. The report looks at four territories – China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore – and the unique opportunities greater industrial connectivity offers up for each of those economies, along with attendant risks if the manufacturing, logistics and supply-chain in the region do not invest in the rapidly-developing industrial IIoT technologies. You can download a copy of the report here.
You will find the full Osborne Clarke Hong Kong team below but we should particularly congratulate Alice Li on her promotion to partnership on 1 January this year. Alice, a specialist in Corporate and Commercial with a focus on emerging and disruptive technologies, has been with the firm since it was set up and, prior to that, worked with John Koh and Marcus Vass at Bird & Bird in Hong Kong.
What we do
As with the rest of Osborne Clarke, but as something very different to the bulk of other Hong Kong firms, we specialise in key market sectors to which we can bring a genuine depth of expertise, and in all aspects of “digital transformation” which our clients face.
In Hong Kong, the more dominant market sectors are, perhaps not surprisingly, where technology is driving change in long-established areas: FinTech (across all areas of Financial Services), Retail, and Real Estate & Infrastructure (with a particular relevance of “Smart City” issues).
However, other sectors are growing rapidly here too – Life Sciences and Connected & Autonomous Vehicles being two notable examples.
From the work we do for a broad range of clients – from multi-nationals to early-stage/rapid growth companies here and in China – our expertise includes:
- Payments, cryptocurrency, Blockchain
- AI applications, platform liability
- Advertising & AdTech, Social Media
- Cybersecurity, Data Privacy regulation
- Industrial IoT
Reflecting the broader Osborne Clarke values, our aim is to work with and be relevant to clients on a relationship basis, not just for “one-off” assignments. Enabling this, we offer a full range of skill sets to support clients’ needs – from setting up in Asia to establishing key market positons. You can find details here.
As a selection of our completed projects in Q1 of 2019, we have advised on:
- The acquisition by a major Spanish advanced reproductive genetics group of a majority stake in the Hong Kong subsidiary of our client, a US-based whole genome sequencing company.
- Two investments by a leading Hong Kong venture capital fund – one into an early-stage personal finance App; and the other into a Singapore-based drug discovery company, along with a number of other prominent backers.
- The investment in our client Feedme Guru, a dining and lifestyle experiences App, by the Hong Kong conglomerate Emperor Group.
- The acquisition by our client, a leading logistics company in Hong Kong, of a leading brand coffee distribution business.
Legal and Market Insights
Hong Kong awards first Virtual Banking licences
On 27 March 2019, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority granted its first virtual banking licences. Announced by HKMA as one of seven measures to launch Hong Kong into a “new era of smart banking”, as the city catches up with mainland China and Japan as the Asia leaders in this area, a total of eight licences have been granted (with more unlikely until 2020).
The licencees, which include WeLab, Hong Kong’s first home-grown FinTech licencee, have the coming year to test systems, with launches expected in six to nine months.
Singapore court’s decision on cryptocurrency exchange’s computer error
In March 2019, the Singapore International Commercial Court gave a ruling that sent warning signals round the region’s cryptocurrency exchange communities.
The Court rejected the crypto exchange’s argument that a software glitch in algorithmic trading amounted to a “mistake” under contract law. As a result, the crypto trader was able to hold the exchange to a highly abnormal ether/Bitcoin exchange rate. One of the key elements of the judgement was that the abnormal trades were not a result of “mistake” (and therefore were not void) but were a function of the way the computer programme had been constructed by the relevant programmer. This clearly could have significant consequences for providers and users of programme-driven functionalities.
GDPR one year on | How are regulators flexing their muscles?
Since coming into force in the EU on 25 May 2018, the GDPR has upended data protection principles and procedures not just in the EU but for businesses across the world that do business with the EU.
But beyond the hype, what do data protection authorities really care about and where are we starting to see the all-important enforcement activity?
Watch | The Digital Revolution Fundamentals
The digital revolution encompasses an array of transformative and disruptive technologies, which can affect different industries in different ways. In our “Digital Revolution Fundamentals” video series, Osborne Clarke’s Digital Transformation Knowledge Lawyer, Catherine Hammon, gives primers on some of the technologies leading the way, and the novel legal issues that they pose.