Singapore: Regional 2024 Doing Business In Update

Published on Apr 23, 2024

2024 Singapore Regional Update

Firm Name: WongPartnership LLP
Monica WY Chong, Wen E Soong

1. How is the political environment impacting business in or with your country?

Concerns over the political situation in the PRC have led to some multinationals choosing Singapore over Hong Kong as their arbitral seat (especially where the relevant transactions have no Chinese element), with implications for Singapore as a regional dispute resolution hub and cross-border collaboration between Singapore and foreign counsel.

On the transactional side, there was a slowdown in M&A activity in Singapore in 2023 due to global market uncertainty and fears of a recession, but deal volume is looking to pick up this year as interest rates stabilize. Singapore is often a jurisdiction of choice for corporations looking to set up a group holding entity for investment purposes, as Singapore's favorable tax regime and foreign investment laws make it attractive to investors.

2. Which countries have you previously collaborated with and do you see potential for future collaboration with on cross-border matters within the region?

We have collaborated with counsel in Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam on litigation and international arbitration briefs. Potential future collaboration with parties in the region will likely increase as more regional parties select Singapore as the seat of their arbitrations or the SICC as their litigation forum, even where a foreign governing law applies.

We have also worked extensively with counsel in Southeast Asia (particularly Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam) and India on M&A transactions where the target group operates its business in those jurisdictions, but the holding company of the group is located in Singapore. We continue to see opportunities for collaboration with lawyers in those jurisdictions as regional businesses choose to headquarter their operations in Singapore.

3. What legislation has recently changed or is changing that a potential international client should be aware of?

The Legal Profession Act was recently amended to permit lawyers to enter into conditional fee agreements (CFAs) with clients for certain contentious proceedings, including international arbitration. CFAs are defined as agreements relating to remuneration/costs of contentious proceedings, which are to be payable only in

specified circumstances (e.g. if the claim succeeds). Uplift fees are also now permissible as part of CFAs. These changes potentially lower barriers to entry for international clients looking to engage Singapore counsel to act in contentious matters.

In addition, the Monetary Authority of Singapore recently issued a notice prescribing certain business conduct requirements, including due diligence requirements, applicable to corporate finance advisers advising on certain types of public transactions in Singapore. As these requirements may apply even where the transaction or client is located out of Singapore, international clients and their advisers would need to consider such requirements when undertaking public transactions in Singapore.