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The law of many lands

PERTH-based companies are becoming increasingly international in their outlook, not just in the search for new business, but also to widen their shareholder base, boosting demand for specialist legal services.

New York law firm Skadden Arps has found a significant amount of its Australian

work is being generated from

WA, as this trend towards international transactions increases.

While Skadden has been advising Perth-based Woodside on the US aspects of its defence against Shell’s A$7 billion takeover bid, much of its WA work has centred around companies seeking to widen their investor base to include the US.

In 2000, Skadden assisted at least two Perth-based companies set up facilities to help broaden their investor base into the US, and another Perth technology company with a placement to US institutional investors.

The WA business is part of Skadden’s massive corporate law business, but is a long way from the more high-profile civil litigation work Skadden has been involved in recently, including representing US President Bill Clinton in his litigation with Paula Jones and in his deposition about the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Skadden Arps partner and Sydney office manager Robert Williams said he was surprised at the growing demand for US legal services being required by the Perth business community.

“While I have assisted firms such as Freehills and Mallesons in the past, recently, there has been quite an upswing in demand from several quarters, both internationally driven, as well as locally,” he said.

Mr Williams, who worked in the Skadden’s New York office for four years, Slaughter and May in London and Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks in Melbourne before that, said that many transactions now transcended international borders.

“International companies and increasingly Australian companies, require advice on how to access the US capital markets or structure their affairs so that they will comply with the laws of many different countries,” he said.

“Sometimes transactions can span from Europe, South Africa, Australia, across the Pacific to the US and tax havens such as the Channel Islands.”

The Sydney office in recent times has been very busy helping top 100 Australian companies raise capital in the US and international capital markets. These transactions include representing the underwriters of the first Commonwealth Bank of Australia sponsored US$1 billion SEC registered global offering of mortgaged backed securities and the Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd US$2.2 billion international equity offering, as well as its subsequent US$ bond financings.

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