Linklaters eyes Hong Kong real estate opportunities

The law firm looks to build property practice with two new hires.

International law firm Linklaters has a new head of real estate in Hong Kong. Christopher Stonehill arrives from the firm's London practice to spearhead the development of the Hong Kong property practice and offer clients more innovative solutions to real estate-related issues. Commercial property securitization could be one market that may flourish as a result.

In addition to Stonehill, Winnie Li joins Linklaters from Allen & Overy, where she advised Hong Kong corporates on their real estate activity. Prior to that, she had a similar role with Johnson Stokes & Masters.

Nick Rees, managing partner of the Hong Kong office believes the additions will provide a major boost to both the domestic and international business coming out of the Hong Kong office.

"Our clients are becoming more and more involved in cross-border real estate transactions, the sector our real estate team is most known for in Europe," he says. "With Chris's arrival we have a real opportunity to offer cutting edge real estate advice to our clients operating in the Asian property markets."

"These two appointments significantly enhance our ability to offer the most innovative real estate advice to businesses operating in Hong Kong and throughout Asia," he further adds.

"While Hong Kong has many excellent domestic real estate advisors, we believe there's a clear need for premium advice to businesses operating internationally and we're now well equipped to provide that advice."

In terms of the transactions themselves, Linklaters will be looking at advising on commercial property securitizations, among other things. Activity in this sector has become increasingly widespread in Europe and Japan as companies seek to divest their non-core assets.

"Our real estate practice is predominantly in the UK and Europe and the firm has developed a premium practice," explains Stonehill. "This has not, as yet, been reflected in the Hong Kong business where the property side of things has been ancillary to our financial practice. One of my remits is to build up the property business.

"We've done a lot of work in Europe on property outsourcing such as sale and leaseback transactions," he comments. "Owner occupiers have been looking to realize capital from their assets and we've been involved in securitizations backed by commercial property assets. It's something that is being looked at here, by banks for example, although these deals tend to be more attractive when interest rates are higher.

The firm will also be looking at opportunities in the investment and property funds sector.