Fairpoint Group plc has officially entered the legal market after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approved its £15m acquisition of national law firm and alternative business structure Simpson Millar.
The AIM-listed financial services business has also secured a new £20m funding facility, in part to fund the acquisition but also “to enable further consolidation in debt solutions and legal services markets”.
It said that “under the Fairpoint Group umbrella, Simpson Millar will now have enhanced capability to execute its strategy of consolidation, targeting appropriate legal services businesses around the UK”.
As , Fairpoint has paid £7m in cash and 1.4m shares (worth around £2m) to the selling shareholders of Simpson Millar.
Up to £6m more will be payable by Fairpoint based on the financial performance of Simpson Millar for two 12-month periods ending June 2015 and June 2016, with a maximum of £3m payable in each period. Any payouts will be split equally between cash and shares. The shares are subject to lock-in periods.
Simpson Millar continues to be run by the same management team, using its existing trading brands and operating as a business unit within the Fairpoint Group. Fairpoint has said it intends to build Simpson Millar into a consumer brand.
Managing director Peter Watson said: “We have developed a very positive reputation in the legal sector for the manner in which we have conducted our consolidation activities and the additional resource and expertise which Fairpoint brings to the table will enable us to accelerate that activity and deliver substantial growth for the legal services part of the group.”
Chris Moat, chief executive officer of Fairpoint, added: “We are delighted to have completed the acquisition of Simpson Millar, which represents an important step in diversifying our income streams into legal services, in line with our stated strategy.
“Simpson Millar has already made significant progress in developing a powerful consumer offering, through the combination of strong legal skills with the innovative application of technology and legal processes.
“From this solid platform, we look forward to working together to further develop the group’s enlarged consumer-focused legal services business, accelerating the growth of the group in this market and delivering enhanced earnings.”
Mr Watson also praised the SRA for its “helpful and responsive” approach in approving the change of ownership within nine weeks.