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Eversheds records double-digit growth as ‘uncertainty barometer’ rises

Eversheds Sutherland (International) has built on its 2017 transatlantic merger with a second year of strong revenue and profit growth.

However, chief executive Lee Ranson (pictured) has cautioned that the ‘uncertainty barometer is increasing’, although this will not dampen the firm’s appetite for further investment.

Revenue at the firm’s non-US business grew 11% to £548.8m in the year to 30 April 2019, following a 13% increase the previous year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) similarly grew 9% to £886,000 – its highest-ever PEP figure – and on the back of 12% growth the previous year.

Ranson told Legal Business the result was a validation of the firm’s strategy following its February 2017 tie-up with US outfit Sutherland Asbill & Brennan: ‘Increasing our offering to clients so that we can deliver a global service has gone down well and that’s opened up greater opportunities both with our existing client base and also attracted a lot of new clients.’

He added: ‘It’s good to see it’s not just been one year, the year before was good and this year has built on that. The strategy and investments are working.’

The firm recently launched in Prague and Bratislava through local mergers, and made 27 partner promotions earlier this year, up seven on a flat 2018 round. The international results follow the firm announcing in February its global revenue – which includes the financially independent US business – had hit $1.175bn in the year to 31 December 2018, an increase of 10%.

Ranson said there was growth across all the firm’s practice areas and regions, but pointed to the transactional side of the business and litigation teams as having performed ‘remarkably well’. Conversely, the real estate investment market was facing the most challenges.

‘[The growth] is not just limited to one group or one geography,’ he added. ‘Our model is all about ensuring we are serving clients across multiple jurisdictions and that seems to be bearing fruit.’

Ranson said some uncertainty was beginning to creep into some jurisdictions, reflecting geopolitical, rather than economic, uncertainty. He was unsure whether this would prove temporary and activity would bounce back, however, as had been the case following the Brexit referendum.

‘The uncertainty barometer is increasing. After the Brexit referendum we saw a slowdown across huge numbers of areas of the business, but they all bounced back within three months. There’s a feeling that eventually this uncertainty is going to catch up with the market but last year wasn’t that year.’

Despite this, the firm is continuing to seek investment opportunities, although Ranson was coy on what those might be. ‘We’re not going to sit still. We see the sector as one that is changing and offering opportunities and we want to take advantage of those.’