International law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton plans to launch Hong Kong practice and wants Norton Rose's China corporate finance head Freeman Chan to lead the new team.

Chan will join Cleary early next year after it has received the necessary regulatory approvals.

Cleary's Hong Kong practice will initially focus on Hong Kong-listed IPOs and other capital markets transactions. It will also focus on private equity and M&A deals. In recent years, Hong Kong has been a top destination for IPOs, especially of large Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The law firm has over 40 lawyers spread between Beijing and Hong Kong, of which 17 are qualified to practice in Hong Kong. They are expected to join Chan when the Hong Kong practice is launched.

Cleary Managing Partner Mark Walker said the firm's Hong Kong practice will be a natural and important extension of our firm's global business model, which combines strong local law and international law practices around the world.

Chan, who has been hailed as a market leader by Walker, has more than 20 years experience representing issuers and underwriters in Hong Kong-listed IPOs and other Hong Kong capital markets transactions, as well as representing financial sponsors and major corporate clients in private equity, public M&A and other transactions. His recent client representations include acting as issuer's counsel in the Hong Kong-listed initial public offerings of Greatview Aseptic Packaging, China Modern Dairy, Sihuan Pharmaceutical, Springland International, Sunac China, Belle International, China Dongxiang, China Mengniu Dairy, China Yurun Food and China Shanshui Cement, and advising on M&A and other corporate transactions for various financial sponsor and corporate clients.

Chan is also a member of the Takeovers and Mergers Panel of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.

Chan will work with the firm's existing partners in Asia in developing the Hong Kong law practice, including Clay Johnson, who focuses on capital markets and M&A work, Megan Tang, who focuses on capital markets work, and Michael Preston, who focuses on private equity and other M&A work.

Cleary's announcement came within days of rival Davis Polk & Wardwell saying that it has beefed up its Hong Kong practice by appointing Paul Chow, a leading M&A lawyer, as a partner and head of the regional office. Davis Polk launched its Hong Kong practice in August this year.

Besides Davis Polk, Shearman & Sterling and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy have also launched Hong Kong practices this year.