Our clients come to us for counsel at all stages of their private equity fund life cycle, including the making of investments, the ongoing management of investments and exits from investments. We assist clients in advising on deal risks and deal structure, negotiating investment terms, preparing term sheets, conducting due diligence, preparing shareholder agreements and co-investment arrangements, preparing purchase and sale agreements and ancillary documentation, attending to completion, advising on corporate governance issues and assisting with corporate matters at the portfolio company level. We advise on corporate, commercial, tax and regulatory issues arising in the context of transactions and in the context of steps to protect and enhance the value of portfolio investments.
On January 7, 2020, the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) issued its “Circular to private equity firms seeking to be licensed” (“PE Circular”) setting out its view on the licensing obligations of private equity firms. The PE Circular suggests that a number of activities frequently undertaken by private equity firms may trigger licensing obligations. As a result, private equity firms operating in Hong Kong without a license should consider their scope of activities and whether or not they do in fact wish to run the risk of operating without a license.
With the gazetting on March 1, 2019 of the new Inland Revenue (Profits Tax Exemption for Funds) (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 (“Amendment Ordinance”), from April 1, 2019, the tax position of investment funds in Hong Kong will be governed by a new tax exemption (“Private Funds Exemption”). Though the new exemption is broadly similar to the exemption (“Offshore Funds Exemption”) previously relied upon, there are significant differences, including:
The Inland Revenue (Profits Tax Exemption Amendment) Bill represents a major step forward in allowing private funds, including hedge funds and private equity funds, managed from Hong Kong to obtain exemption from profits tax. Amongst other things, the Bill will provide bright line tax certainty for open-ended fund companies. At the same time, the Bill will allow funds to maintain their tax residency in Hong Kong, meaning that such funds will no longer be required to undertake board activities outside of Hong Kong and will no longer be required to maintain directors resident outside of Hong Kong to qualify for tax relief. Finally, the Bill will provide greater flexibility for tax relief in the context of private equity investments both in and out of Hong Kong. The Bill is on track to come into effect in April, 2019 and discussions with the IRD to date suggest that the IRD will be helpful in construing the legislation for the benefit of the asset management industry.