Listed law firm heads into administration as cash runs out

Stock exchange: Shares suspended

The troubled listed legal business, the Ince Group, is to go into administration ahead of a sell-off, it announced today.

The group has had a troubled history since what was Gordon Dadds acquired the larger City firm Ince & Co in 2018.

Trading in its shares was suspended at the start of this year because it has still to publish its 2021/22 and first-half 2022/23 results.

Publication has been delayed several times since and today’s stock exchange announcement said the audit process remained uncompleted.

“The length of the auditing process has put increasing pressure on the cash flows of the business. As a result, the company has been holding discussions with its major lender and other creditors, including HMRC, to establish their level of support.

“The company has now been informed by a major creditor that it will no longer continue to support the business and, as a result, in order to preserve the future value of the group’s business and to protect the interests of employees and other stakeholders, the board of the company has regrettably concluded that it has no choice but to place the company into administration.”

Ince said it was filing documents with the High Court today to appoint Quantuma as administrator, “in the expectation that Quantuma will implement a sale of the group’s business to a third-party purchaser as soon as possible”.

Just before Christmas, Ince said its new auditor, BDO, put the delay down to “the complexity of historic and legacy accounting issues”, as well as ongoing delays in China as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. “The board is not aware of any material issues arising from the audit,” it said.

Ince’s share price started 2022 at 35p and ended it at 5.15p, an 85% fall.

The group has been going through a significant change in strategy in recent months to focus on its legal practice, supported by a £9.3m fund-raise in August and another £4.7m in November.

We revealed that Alan Sellers and Samantha Bond, the married lawyers who run Anexo Group PLC, have between them become the largest shareholder in Ince as a result of the latter.

In September, Ince also disposed of the first business it acquired after listing, a corporate tax consultancy, while the solicitor who took the firm public and expanded its operations left the business. It has just received regulatory approval to sell the corporate adviser and stockbroker it only bought in April, for a £7m loss.

Earlier this month, the £1.3m disposal of Ince’s “non-core” Bristol-based claimant personal injury and clinical negligence practice to Enable Law – first announced in January – was completed.

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