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Freshfields partner profits top £1.7m as City giant posts more confident year

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has posted something of a rebound after announcing a 12% increase in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £1.734m while the firm added 5% to its top line.

The firm achieved total profits of £683m, a 12% increase, while revenues were up from £1.33bn last year to £1.403bn. The performance will be seen as a marked improvement on the 2016/17 season when Freshfields failed to hike income at all despite favourable movements in currencies. The hike in partner profits will be seen as particularly welcome at a time when many London leaders are seeing their star partners targeted by aggressive US rivals.

The results come hot on the heels of Clifford Chance’s on Tuesday (3 July), which revealed similar figures of a 5% revenue hike to £1.623bn and a profit pool up just over 13% to £626m. PEP increased nearly 16% from £1.375m to £1.596m.

Freshfields managing partner Stephan Eilers told Legal Business: ‘It has been a very good year. The most important drivers of profit have private equity transactions in the non-traditional spaces of fintech, TMT and infrastructure and an uplift in the US business.’

Natasha Good, corporate partner, cited a key mandate advising US cable giant Comcast on its £22bn bid for Sky against a rival bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Another headline deal saw Freshfields advise on Vodafone’s €18.4bn buyout of Liberty Global European assets as the trend for consolidation continues. ‘That activity will not be going away in the next year or two,’ said Good.

Eilers commented: ‘We are very optimistic for the future. We see the clients sticking with us. In the US we will try as we have been doing, to build antitrust, leveraged finance and M&A.’

Closer to home, Eilers points to the impending launch of a new support hub to cover mainland Europe in Berlin, as well as the impending City move to a flagship office in Bishopsgate. ‘We don’t see Brexit as a risk. We see it more as an opportunity.’

Eilers concluded: ‘As clients adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation, we are ambitious about the opportunities this brings and are investing across our business. We look forward to continuing to deliver some of the most notable and challenging work in the market.’