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Problem solver set for action

Adam Main

Alvarez & Marsal opens Shanghai office as prospects look strong

The incredible growth experienced by many mainland companies over the past decade has attracted many global firms eager to get in on the action.

From managers of overseas equity funds looking to invest, to top business minds willing to relocate, the mainland's prosperity is a magnet for many, including New York-based restructuring and turnaround specialist firm Alvarez & Marsal.

The company helps firms improve efficiencies and gets them back on track.

The company has been increasing its presence in Asia. It acquired Hong Kong-based advisory services specialist RSM Nelson Wheeler and that company's Singapore office in July 2005.

Alvarez & Marcel Asia underwent a restructuring last month to consolidate its core businesses and also set up a Shanghai office to increase its mainland presence.


The company plans to focus on the areas of restructuring and turnaround, transaction advisory, business intelligence, dispute analysis and forensic businesses.

Stephen Scott, managing director of the new operation in Shanghai, said A&M Asia needed a mainland presence because work there was expanding.

Mr Scott said the Shanghai office had seven staff and he expected the headcount to reach 25 by year-end. He forecast the firm, which now had about 1,000 people globally, would have a staff level of 2,000 in five years.

Mr Scott said the company's method in carrying out forensic investigations looked backwards to gather information that could be used in court proceedings to help resolve a dispute. Its business intelligence unit looked forwards to help companies looking to invest.


'Business intelligence is all about forward thinking. It is not examining what happened. It is seeking to develop information about what's coming down the pipeline so you can place your bets appropriately, whether you are looking to invest or to troubleshoot before the trouble hits.'

He said such information could help mainland companies looking to expand either domestically or globally. 'The Chinese market is not monolithic. Even in the state-owned sector you have 155 to 160 companies that the government wants to turn into national champions. Those companies are well capitalised and are usually fairly well managed and acquisitive.


'We can work with those companies and help them make their acquisitions outside of China and domestically using our transaction advisory and due diligence services. We can help them mitigate the risk of making acquisitions overseas. Many of them will be doing that for the first time.'

Mr Scott said the company was looking for people with an entrepreneurial background who had a knack for building up and improving businesses.

Candidates should have a mix of finance and accounting skills and, ideally, have used those skills in industry.


'A&M is not an advisory firm that comes in and writes a big report and leaves it with management to get on with. We come in, roll up our sleeves and actually fix companies. We will run those companies directly so we look for people who have that kind of operational background.'

Jim Dubow, who co-heads A&M's mainland operation, said Hong Kong professionals could play an important role in the company's growth.

'Hong Kong professionals often have a good balance of mainland China experience, a western education and strong contacts in the Hong Kong investment community, which continues to be the central hub for investors in Asia,' Mr Dubow said.


'Those that have extensive experience in China, whether working there or growing up there, tend to have the best balance of international business skills and sensitivity to the requirements and cultural sensitivities of the mainland market.'

Alvarez & Marsal Asia

Specialist in pre-acquisition business diligence and post-acquisition services

Shanghai office is its third operation in Asia, after Hong Kong and Singapore

Plans to employ 18 more staff in Shanghai by year-end

Firm will hire 1,000 more people to reach a total global staff level of 2,000 in five years

Mainland focus important for the company's future growth

The company is looking for professionals with an entrepreneurial background to help rebuild companies