BLAKE Dawson on Friday announced it would become the first Australian law firm to open an office in Tokyo. But the head of the firm's North Asia Group, Ian Williams, says its clients were ready for a Tokyo office at least three years ago.
The new office, which is set to open its doors in early 2010, will enable the firm to have close contact with some of its current clients and Japan's leading trading houses, financial institutions, energy and resources, infrastructure and consumer products companies.
The focus is entirely on inbound investment from Japan to Australia, Williams said. And since the volume of investment has been "fairly steady" for the past 10 years, regarding a new office WIlliams said the firm "probably should have done it about three years ago".
The new office was "the next logical step", which will "widen and deepen those relationships for clients we are doing work for".
Williams said there has been recent increased interest in Australia as an investment destination. "The Australian domestic economy is a but slower, and so some of the acquisitions, including Kirin, Asahi and Nippon Paper, have had more prominence in the press."
Last week WIlliams and his team were celebrating at the closing dinner of the Kirin, Lion Nathan deal. The formal transfer of the shares took place on Wednesday, he said.
The Blakes team will from January include four lawyers in Tokyo, including the three who are already in the city, working with current clients.
The new office will do traditional energy and resources investment into Australia work. WIlliams said, as well, that the energy and resources work is as large as it's ever been.
"There are new strains of investments into consumer goods and that is driven by this need for growth. When they look at opportunities around the world, America is very expensive, in terms of size to get a market share, Europe is very expensive and Australia is a medium-sized market.
"We have a rule of law, same time zone, stable politically and economically. Australia is pretty popular," he said.