Oon & Bazul’s Restructuring & Insolvency Practice, co-led by Meiyen Tan and Keith Han, has been ranked by Global Restructuring Review (GRR) 100 2021 as one of the top 100 restructuring firms in the world for the third time in a row. GRR 100 2021 is the fifth edition of the annual guide to the world’s leading law firms for cross-border restructuring and insolvency matters.
- The firm’s highest-profile case has been for the US trustee of insolvent airline Zetta Jet, a complex bankruptcy involving Chapter 11 and then Chapter 7 proceedings in California for both the Singapore parent and the US subsidiary, which continued even after the Singapore court issued an injunction against their continuance. The Singapore court finally recognised the US proceedings in March 2019, after having previously refused recognition because the company flouted the injunction. This was the first time that the Singapore courts considered the public policy exception of the UNCITRAL Model Law, and the first successful application seeking recognition of Chapter 7 proceedings under the Model Law in Singapore.
- Oon & Bazul also caught attention in April 2019 when it obtained the first-ever super-priority order under Singapore’s new restructuring regime – nearly two years after the provisions were enacted – on behalf of online travel platform Asiatravel.com Holdings. The platform successfully secured a Singapore scheme alongside an unprecedented second round rescue financing.
- Tan advised electronics retailer Epicentre Holdings, which has a Singapore-listed parent company and a subsidiary in Malaysia, on the parent’s restructuring. She also helped Epicentre meet regulatory obligations following the disappearance of its chief executive officer. The company was placed under judicial management in 2019.
- The firm also advised on the liquidation of Ricebowl Technologies, a forex trader closely related to BVI-incorporated fintech company SixCap group, which collapsed in 2017. SixCap, which itself entered liquidation in 2018, stopped making payments to investors and Ricebowl held some of the technology used by SixCap.
- Han was recruited from Clifford Chance in July 2020. He focuses on complex commercial disputes, restructuring and insolvency, and fraud and asset tracing, and was of course promoted to co-lead the practice with Tan a year later.
- Oon & Bazul is representing the minority shareholders of the Xihe Group and 11 single-purpose ship-owning companies owned by the Lim family, as well as the liquidator of various Xihe Capital subsidiaries that are in members voluntary liquidation. Three major shipping and trading groups owned by the Lims entered judicial management in 2020 after their founder, Lim Oon Kuin, revealed in court documents that he had hidden around S$800 million (US$564 million) in losses at one of the companies, Hin Leong. The firm says its clients at Xihe Capital, which it is helping restructure via various court and mediation processes, own more than 100 vessels.
- In 2020, Tan took new instructions from a pair of Indonesian conglomerates; MNC Investema, which launched a pre-packaged scheme in Singapore under new legislation introduced in July 2020, after becoming the first Indonesian company to secure a moratorium in the city-state; and real estate group Modernland Realty, which obtained an extraterritorial moratorium in Singapore alongside one of its subsidiaries, featuring a special carve-out for noteholders to take action in Indonesia in certain circumstances. The MNC Investama case closed in February 2021 after the team successfully restructured a tranche of notes listed on the Singapore stock exchange – the first time a foreign company obtained sanction for a pre-packaged scheme in Singapore. Meanwhile, the team also secured court approval for a pair of a Singaporean prepackaged schemes of arrangement for locally incorporated special purpose vehicles in the Modernland Realty matter, weeks before the GRR 100 went to press.
- Tan also represented commodities trader Agritrade International as it and its subsidiaries sought moratoriums from the Singapore courts to see through a US$1.5 billion debt restructuring. However, creditors raised fraud allegations and so Tan’s team advised the company to seek out independent directors, increase its financial advisers’ scope to look into past transactions and negotiated a white knight investor whose term sheet would preserve the company’s claims against wrongdoers for the benefit of creditors. Agritrade eventually entered judicial management in March 2020, bringing Oon & Bazul’s role as advisers on a potential restructuring to an end.
- The firm also acted as counsel to tech start-up HonestBee, which has operations in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan, as it restructured S$291 million (US$210 million) in debt through a Singaporean scheme of arrangement with some of its 1,800 creditors.
- Tan and Han were also called in to represent debtor Mencast Holdings and its subsidiaries in negotiating a consensual restructuring of the group’s S$190 million (US$140 million) in bank debt with five lenders. While most companies involved were Singapore-based, one of the subsidiaries was Indonesian and there were also assets, property and businesses in China that had to be considered in the restructuring.
- Since the research period, Oon & Bazul, under Han’s leadership, retained a new instruction guiding international engineering group TEE as it pursues a scheme of arrangement in Singapore. TEE filed its scheme moratorium application in the City-state’s High Court in August 2021.
- David Chew, a partner at DHC Capital in Singapore, says that Tan is “strong technically, easy to work with” and maintains a “strong presence at creditor meetings”. Chew worked with Tan on the first super-priority rescue financing in Singapore for Asiatravel.com and most recently on the HonestBee restructuring.
- “The insolvency team is young but packs a punch,” says Wei Cheong Tan, partner at Deloitte. “[The team is] leading the way in a few firsts, including being involved in Singapore’s first successful rescue financing.” “Meiyen and Keith Han are strong insolvency lawyers with an excellent track record,” Tan adds. He applauds Han’s “strong commercial acumen”, which he says complements his legal expertise.
- Sasha Bharwani, associate counsel at Eliot & Luther, describes the client service at Oon & Bazul as “top tier” and credits the team’s “work ethic and their availability kept all involved at ease”. Bharwani worked with the group on a moratorium and pre-packaged scheme of arrangement for US dollar bonds issued by Indonesian conglomerate MNC Investama.
- Walkers partner Robert Foote says Meiyen and Han are “first-class” practitioners. His high praise also extends to the rest of the team: “[Oon & Bazul’s] lawyers are technically sound, commercially excellent and always provide prompt advice. They also have a track record of success in novel and cutting-edge applications to the Singapore Court involving matters under the new insolvency legislation.”
If you require assistance for any Restructuring & Insolvency matters, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Co-Heads of Practice, Meiyen Tan, by email [email protected] or telephone +65 6239 5898, or Keith Han by email [email protected] or telephone +65 6704 1903.