Alternative business structure, ABS. It is hardly a snappy name. It means nothing to the general public. It doesn’t mean much more to the business community. But, for private equity firms, it’s a chink of light – a way in to a £25bn market. So, is this a gold rush? Are we likely to see high levels of PE activity? Nick West, director of legal markets at Legal Futures Associate LexisNexis considers the possibilities.
Large law firms should consider structures that allow them “to trade in the substantial value of their businesses”, a corporate advisory firm claimed yesterday. Europa Partners said that six of the top ten by value large enough to be included in the FTSE 100 if they were listed.
Private equity firms are showing “considerable interest” in volume legal practices, the man behind Duke Street’s acquisition of the Parabis Group has said. The head of strategic projects at Irwin Mitchell claimed that most PE firms are considering investing in the law.
In the second instalment of our new Legal Pioneers series, we profile Parabis, which currently operates as a co-operative of different insurance-related regulated companies. When the Legal Services Act goes lives, however, integration of legal and non-legal functions and external investment are on the horizon.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is unlikely to start licensing alternative business structures (ABSs) until 2012, it has confirmed. The news comes as the authority spelt out the detailed level of information about investors in prospective ABSs that it will expect to see.
Law firms will need a turnover of at least £75m to list on the stock exchange, a leading investment banker said this week. This is because “the public markets prefer larger businesses at the moment” and smaller ones may struggle with liquidity.
I don’t know much about the financial markets – that’s one of the many reasons I became a solicitor donkey’s years ago. So I don’t quite get how a company like online conveyancing business In-Deed, that with the best will in the world is currently little more than an idea, can float on AIM, have a market capitalisation of £8.6m and within a couple of days see its share price rise a third, from 42p to 56p.
Before we all get too excited by the thought of law firms floating next year (and I’m as bad as the next hack – I would donate a non-essential organ in return for breaking the story of the first firm here to do it), it took Slater & Gordon seven years from starting to look at its options to reach the point of listing. That doesn’t mean every firm would take so long, but it does indicate how deeply firms need to examine it. Has anyone being doing that for nearly enough time to allow them to push the button in the next year?