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Financials 2017/18: Ashurst posts 4% revenue uptick and second year of double-digit PEP growth

In what management has billed as ‘a strong performance globally’, Ashurst has reported a modest 4% uptick in revenue for 2017/18 while the firm sustained the 11% growth in profit per equity partner (PEP) achieved last year.

The firm’s revenue for the last financial year was £564m, up from £541m, while PEP stood at £743,000 compared with £672,000 in 2017.

The results mark a second year of growth following two consecutive years of decline that followed the City stalwart’s merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson in 2013.

Managing partner Paul Jenkins (pictured) told Legal Business that the 11% year-on-year PEP growth just exceeded his target. ‘We were aiming for 10% growth and we have achieved that over each of the last two years, so we are very happy with the result. We have focused on areas of strength for profitable growth and driving cost efficiency and innovation in service delivery.’

The firm’s core sectors are real estate, infrastructure, energy, digital economy and banks and funds. 85% of the firm’s revenue was generated via these sectors in 2017/18, compared with 80% of total revenue the previous year.

Jenkins noted that Asia Pacific has continued to perform well. ‘We have achieved double-digit revenue growth in Australia and China put in an excellent performance in a year in which we also launched a Joint Operating Office in Shanghai with Guantao. Demonstrating our ongoing investment in Singapore, we also established a formal law alliance with ADTLaw.’

He also pointed to ‘double-digit revenue growth across key practices in the UK’ and progress in the Middle East, which ‘continued to grow substantially,’ and ‘impressive results with growth across all practice areas’ in Germany. He added that Asia market would continue to be a strategic focus for the firm, while the US infrastructure market has also yielded particular success. The firm has identified opportunities in acting for Chinese banks on outbound investment in Europe and Australia.

Jan Gooze-Zijl, the firm’s chief financial and operations officer, also identified Luxembourg as an area of growth on the back of Brexit and to capitalise on funds activity. The firm last week secured licence approval for a new Luxembourg outpost, which is set to open in October.

Jenkins also said the firm has seen particularly strong performance in its dispute resolution, real estate, competition, regulatory and employment businesses. Restructuring and special situations has also seen very high levels of activity across Europe, as has corporate and banking in London. Technology is also expected to remain a priority. In April, the firm hired GE Capital International’s IT director Noel Jordan as its chief technology officer.

Jenkins concluded: ‘I am confident that our strong trajectory will continue in FY19. In the last two years, we have focused on achieving sustained revenue and profit improvement. There are many significant prospects and opportunities that lie ahead as we build on our achievements as a high-performance and collaborative firm committed to operating at the forefront of change in the industry.’

The firm made 31 lateral hires during the year and promoted 24 internal candidates to partner. The firm also fared considerably better than its peers when it came to gender diversity, with 58% of the partners it made up being female.

Some key mandates for Ashurst during the year have included advising Aveva Group on its £3bn combination with Schneider Electric’s industrial software business and acting for an infrastructure investor consortium fronted by Dalmore Capital on its acquisition of Cory Riverside Energy, the owner of the UK’s largest energy-from-waste plant in London, for more than £1.5bn.