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PROFESSIONAL SERVICES/LEGAL | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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Closing gaps between Europe and Asia

Thomas, Mayer & Associés take legal practice to new heights.

Thomas, Mayer & Associés (“TMA”) is a French law frm established in Hong Kong in 1995. It has steadily developed its presence in the territory and is today recognized as a major actor in the structuring of business relationships of French and continental European entrepreneurs looking to explore the Asian market. Conversely TMA assists Asian clients in their European ventures. TMA’s expertise in using Hong Kong as a platform for structuring international investments enables its clients to beneft comfortably from the legal security Hong Kong offers in the region. As the vast majority of foreign investments in mainland China are structured in Hong Kong, Eric Mayer, partner at TMA explains, there’s simply no need for a project manager to go to China in order to structure an investment. Hong Kong will always be the stepping stone into the Chinese market.

Mayer explains that Hong Kong will unlikely be replaced by China as a top international business hub because of the rule of law and fexibility of the business environment if offers. “Many of our clients wish to establish in China. But legal aspects of setting up a business such as holdings agreements and the actual signing of deals are often done in Hong Kong because clients understand the legal security and advantages that the city has to offer”, explains Mayer. In China, the frm has advised clients in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Wuhan, and many other second-tier cities. “Being well connected to frms and professionals in mainland China is necessary in order to understand and control the important and complex legal documents needed in an investment project in China, and we will rely on local professionals to ensure that what needs to be done locally is done smoothly,” he says.

In the Europe towards Asia investment fow, most clients of TMA are French or Spanish speaking. TMA is in fact one of the few, if not the only frm in Asia with a team of twelve French lawyers. “French frms in China will only have a few French lawyers heading a Chinese team. But our advantage is that we have a very good understanding of the French culture and that enables us to gain the complete trust of our clients.” And the European clients that are trusting Thomas, Mayer & Associés for legal advices operate in sectors such as retail, medical, pharmaceutical, stones and other construction material, telecom, energy, industrial, plastic engineering, manufacturing crowns for dentists, humidors, musical instruments, food and beverage, textiles, accessories, and even lingerie, just to name a few.

“We are very familiar with the market in Hong Kong and we have good relationships with different frms,” Mayer explains. If a client needs to fle bankruptcy or hire help for expanding in other parts of Asia, the frm has the right connection to make things work. “We know how to help our clients get the best help there is out there and to
use our connections to their advantage.” TMA clients are also Chinese entrepreneurs seeking a foothold in France through acquisitions or joint-ventures. Regulations and rules in Europe are many and complying with many laws is tough. Eric-Jean Thomas says Chinese clients are attracted by French brands, just as much as the French business people are eager to go into China. “They look for relatively unknown brands that have gone into decline, but have a glorious past,’’ he says. There are other entrepreneurs from China who are eager to develop their own brands and desire the added value of French design that will in itself be a selling point for their products among the mainland’s consumers who are attracted to all things French. Chinese business people who prefer French design have the capital and the manufacturing capability but not the style, Eric-Jean Thomas points out.

Mayer attributes part of the frm’s success to its group of loyal staff, which is what client loyalty is built upon. “We have a very low staff turnover rate. Our clients are comfortable working always with the same lawyers they are familiar with and this is one of the reasons why they keep coming back to us; they’ve trusted us over the years and they continue to do so”. The frm’s reputation is something Mayer takes very seriously; and he’s not about to change client’s perception of his team and himself. “We don’t want to expand too quickly; we can comfortably deal with all our clients on a personal level now and that’s one of the reasons why they like working with us.”

Fast facts:
• The practice was established in Hong Kong 18 years ago

• Paris office, a subsidiary, opened in September 2010

• Practice areas: International business law, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, company and commercial law, international tax law, international arbitration, private international law, and immigration law, are its practice areas. 

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