£10m Ince deal in doubt amid slew of listed law firm announcements


Stock exchange: Arden application turned down

Corporate adviser and stockbroker Arden Partners cannot continue to act as a nominated adviser (nomad) if it is taken over by listed law firm The Ince Group, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) has said.

The decision has cast serious doubt over the £10m deal, which was first announced last October.

Arden has been at the forefront of advising on law firm flotations and indeed was the broker and nomad on the listing in 2017 of what was then Gordon Dadds, now Ince, and has advised it since.

The deal was to be effected by means of a court-sanctioned scheme of arrangement, a condition of which was the LSE determining that Arden would remain eligible to act as a nomad after the change of control.

The LSE has now notified Arden that its application for nomad status following the change of control has not been approved.

“The board of Arden has entered into discussions with the board of Ince regarding the implications of London Stock Exchange’s decision and will provide a further update to shareholders as soon as practicable,” the company said.

In other listed law firm news, the 2021 results from RBG Holdings showed revenue up 87% to £47m in the wake of its £30m acquisition last year of London law firm Memery Crystal, adding non-contentious expertise to its existing contentious practice Rosenblatt.

Some £34m of this came from the legal services businesses – RBG also owns litigation funder LionFish and specialist sell-side corporate finance boutique Convex Capital. Organic revenue, excluding Memery Crystal, was up 20% to £27m.

The group’s 2021 adjusted profit before tax more than doubled to £10m.

Average revenue per fee-earner fell from £425,800 in 2020 to £347,000 in 2021, which the group said put down to a “new larger workforce”; it now has 137 fee-earners, the majority of whom work at Memery Crystal.

The group’s net debt of £14.2m – compared to £3.5m in 2020 – reflected a £10m term facility to fund the acquisition, of which £1m has already been repaid/

RBG is paying a dividend of 5p, up from 3p, “reflecting the board’s confidence in the group’s continued prospects”, it told investors.

LionFish realised £3.1m in litigation asset sales in five cases, and invested £1.8m in 10 cases, with a full commitment of £11m if the cases go to trial.

It also reported its first successful case, delivering a return of two times the money invested.

Convex completed 14 deals, generating revenue of £9.4m; due to the pandemic, 2020 saw little activity, with just two deals and revenue of £1.6m.

Nicola Foulston, chief executive of RBG Holdings, said: “RBG continues to evolve into a well-diversified, high-quality professional services group, with a litigation finance business that leverages the group’s legal expertise.

“We are building a group with a broad revenue base that reduces any dependence on any one business, sector, or fee generator.”

She said the two law firms were now “almost fully integrated” and based at one office on Fleet Street. The benefits of the acquisition “are already being felt with improved organic revenue growth, enhanced operating efficiency, and margins growing, with scope for further improvement over the medium term”.

Credit hire and legal services business Anexo Group PLC issued a trading update that said the new housing disrepair team at its law firm, Bond Turner – which was only announced in December – has already settled 850 cases, with a further 1,800 cases on the books.

The update said the law firm “continues to benefit from the re-opening of the court system, which enables litigators to increase case settlements and cash collection, supporting further investment in new cases.

“This trend is expected to continue through 2022 and cash collections are currently running at record levels.”

Anexo has increased in its debt facilities by £7.5m, taking the overall figure to £40m, and secured a further £3m of litigation funding to support investment in diesel emission class actions.




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