Legal Business Blogs

Financials update – Field Fisher Waterhouse pays the cost of merger mania

After a turbulent year that saw it unsuccessfully attempt merger discussions with both Laurence Graham and Osborne Clarke, Field Fisher Waterhouse has unveiled a disappointing set of financial results, with revenues and PEP both down.

The firm posted a 2.5% drop in revenues to £95m, compared to £97.6m in 2012, while profit per equity partner has decreased by 7% on the figure published in the LB100 last year, from to £434,000 £402,000 – following a 16% drop in 2011/2012. Equity partner numbers are up slightly, from 41 to 46.

However, the firm has reported an 8% rise in net profit available to full equity partners, amounting to £18.3m this year compared to £17m last year.

Some readjustment has also taken place within the equity, with the top of equity figures up 20% to £615,000 from £515,000 in 2012.

Speaking to Legal Business, managing partner Michael Chissick conceded that revenue and profitability were not where they should be, and attributed the below-par performance to a tough market. He does, however, expect an increase in both in the next couple of years.

‘The results are not where I want them to be or where I anticipate they will be going over the coming years but we’re making a lot of investments now in new laterals and new offices and it takes some time for that to come through,’ he said.

Despite a respectable offering in practice areas including financial services, privacy & information, medical negligence and technology & outsourcing, it hasn’t been a good run of late for the 150-partner firm, having acrimoniously failed in two sets of merger talks with LG in June 2012 and Osborne Clarke five months later.

Chissick, who told Legal Business in an interview last year that the firm wanted to be more international, now says it is no longer seeking a suitor.

‘We’re not in the market,’ he said. ‘We did discuss it last year and we concluded we don’t have a perfect merger partner. We’re focused on this business now and thinking about who we were going to merger with, is why the figures are down now. You’ll see results improving year on year now. It needs some fine tuning but that doesn’t mean all the ingredients are not in place.’

Other mid-tier City rivals to unveil financials in the last week include Speechly Bircham, which reported flat financials for the 2012/13 year to £57.5m from £57.6m following its very own failed merger talks with international private client firm Withers.