The tax transparency drive led by the world's largest economic powers is effectively helping to drive business to Bermuda, ac­cording to a top lawyer with an international firm.

Steven Rees Davies, corpo­rate partner with Appleby Ber­muda, said the fact that Bermuda had kept pace with international regulatory changes allowed the island to differentiate itself from less advanced offshore jurisdic­tions.

"Bermuda has earned an ex­cellent reputation for regulatory standards because of the high standards the Bermuda Stock Exchange and the Bermuda Monetary Authority have put in place, which has positioned the island as a blue-chip jurisdiction that companies want to do busi­ness with," Mr Rees Davies said.

"And these companies are seeking a jurisdiction with a reputation that matches theirs. Some have come to us saying they want to move from another jurisdiction to Bermuda because they are becoming more sensi­tive to risk."

Appleby announced last month that it had advised on a $200 million public offering and listing on the BSX of Brit­ish Virgin Islands-based Water­loo Investment Holdings Ltd, which has hospitality, banking and investment interests in the Caribbean and Central America. Also advising on the deal was the Bermuda office of Estera, an off­shore management and adminis­trative services firm formed by a spin-off from Appleby last year.

Waterloo was the latest in a string of debt and equity list­ings on the BSX by internation­al companies that the two firms have advised on over the last 18 months, with a listing value of $453 million.

The listings include Madi­son Point Holdings SA (Lux­embourg), Hawley Group Ltd (BVI), Normandy Ltd (Ber­muda) and ABM International (Holdings) Ltd (UK).

Sherman Taylor, Estera Ber­muda associate director, said: "We are absolutely seeing a rise in the number of inquiries and in addition to that, an uptick in the number of requests to carry out instructions."

Much of the interest is com­ing from Europe and Latin America, he said. Official rec­ognition of the BSX by the Irish tax authorities, announced in January this year, had helped to boost interest in listings from Europe.

The island had a reputation for innovation in financial ser­vices, exemplified by it emerg­ing as a world leader in insur­ance-linked securities over the past six years.

"Bermuda is open for busi­ness and the BSX is always open to listen to what people want," Mr Taylor added.

The Organisation for Eco­nomic Co-operation and Devel­opment, a club of rich countries, has led international efforts to clamp down on secrecy juris­dictions and improve tax trans­parency. This had created prob­lems for some financial centres, but for Bermuda, it had created opportunities, Mr Rees Davies said.

"Bermuda has never had se­crecy laws, so the move towards greater transparency is simply promoting what we already do," Mr Rees Davies said.

"The Bermuda Government has been excellent in secur­ing tax information exchange agreements and has been ful­ly involved with the OECD in working towards the goal of tax transparency."

Prospects were good for Ber­muda's future, Mr Rees Davies added, although much could change in the world with the on­going process of Britain's depar­ture from the European Union and elections in the US and Ber­muda also imminent.

"A lot is going on in the world and locally that will af­fect everybody's view," Mr Rees Davies said. "But we in Bermuda are well positioned for whatever the future brings. We have put ourselves in a place in which we can provide people with what they may be missing elsewhere.

"From our perspective, it's a positive outlook."

Article first published in the Royal Gazette October 2016

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