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Bird & Bird reports 11% uptick in first-half revenue as LLPs reveal rich pickings for ExComm

Bird & Bird’s nine executive committee members took home €6.4m in the year to April 2018, its LLP accounts showed today (30 January), as the firm announced turnover of €197m in the first half of the current financial year.

The TMT-focused shop saw pre-tax profit up 14% to €119.8m in the 2017/18 financial year, a pacier run than the 9% rise to €103.5m in the previous year. Turnover rose 6% to €380.9m.

The remuneration for chief executive David Kerr and the eight other executive committee members was up 16% on €5.5m last year, with the firm adding one member to the committee in the year.

But the UK top 20 firm’s top earner saw their compensation reduce by 4% to €1.04 from €1.08m as the number of partners rose by eight to 264. Staff costs grew 5% to €170.5m as fee-earner numbers rose by 40 to 1,099 and support staff by 55 to 906.

As anticipated by chief financial officer Richard Olver in June, the firm almost halved its debt to €27.2m compared to a considerable €49.3m in the previous year.

Olver told Legal Business the firm had ensured partners paid their capital contributions more quickly rather than building it over the years. He added he was ‘very comfortable’ with the current level of debt, ‘and so are the banks’.

The accounts also show that the firm had a €1.436m bank loan at the end of April last year, repayable in 12 monthly instalments. This was 9% higher than the loan the firm took the previous year, although Olver said it was ‘normal business’ and pointed to a ‘rather attractive’ 0.8% interest rate.

The firm also announced that its revenue in the six months between May and October 2018 grew 11% to €197m from €177m in the same period in 2017, with profit rising 13% to €59m.

‘It’s a good set of results,’ Kerr told Legal Business. ‘We are pleased at the way it’s going, particularly with all the political uncertainty around the world.’

He pointed to double digit percentage growth in Asia, the Nordics and central Europe, and said that despite concerns about the UK, the firm had seen ‘good growth’ on its home turf, too.

The firm saw a lot of GDPR-related work throughout H1: ‘Interestingly, that’s continuing even though it was implemented last May,’ Kerr commented.

Kerr added the firm was on track to post a similar performance in the second half of the year: ‘We are a very international firm, so we are less dependent on problems in one country.’

The latest moves in the firm’s international expansion included the opening of a representative base in San Francisco in September, after the firm hired former Taylor Wessing’s international US group co-head Kai Westerwelle and the acquisition of a 20-strong Budapest team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges earlier last year.

Kerr concluded: ‘A lot of people thought that corporate work would be down, with the Trump administration, Brexit and populist parties on the rise. But corporate work is holding up pretty well, as is contentious.’