If you had reached the impression that Slater & Gordon’s acquisitive streak had come to a natural pause, if only for breath, that impression would be wrong.
Having last week officially declared it is to acquire leading UK claimant personal injury firm Fentons, its fourth buyout in two years, chief executive Neil Kinsella (pictured) tells Legal Business that the ASX-listed group has no intention of stopping any time soon.
‘We continue to look at acquisitions that might make sense strategically –without rushing,’ he explains. ‘We look at who is right for us [and consider whether] it fixes the geographical gap. It’s not just about personal injury either, it’s [also] about consumer legal services. We’re pretty optimistic. We’ll continue to grow.’
The Australian-listed firm last Wednesday (21 August) announced that due diligence on 120-lawyer Fentons, which generates an annual revenue of £27.7m, is substantially completed and formal business sale agreements have been executed with the London and Manchester firm. The acquisition follows last year’s landmark £53.8m deal with Russell Jones & Walker, followed swiftly by a tie-up with Goodmans Law and Taylor Vinters, although discussions with 10-office national firm Simpson Millar, widely thought to be a done deal after it was announced in May, have been deferred until early 2014. The total annual revenue of Taylor Vinters, Goodmans and Fentons is £35m, with Taylor Vinters contributing £3.9m and Goodmans £3.4m.
The acquisitions are set against a backdrop of a post-Jackson-reforms personal injury market, ripe for consolidation and with a number of even the largest players open to new entrants with deep pockets. But while Slater is undoubtedly making the most of its strong position, the fact that it is not expecting to lay off any staff as a result of its latest acquisition goes a long way to supporting Kinsella’s assertion that the acquisitions have been approached carefully, with time spent working on the integration process and ensuring the compatibility of cultures between the firms.
‘Fentons are very much in our strategic sweet spot,’ he notes. ‘It’s an independent firm specialised in personal injury – so they’re not dependent on any intermediaries for getting work. It’s based upon the brands they’ve begun to develop with direct marketing and the reputation they’ve built on serious injury matters.’
Furthermore, while Kinsella has not ruled out further acquisitions an immediate priority is investment in organic growth. The company is in a good financial position to make that investment, after last week releasing 2012/13 financials that show a 36.7% revenue increase to A$297.6m while total net profits rocketed by 67.6% to A$41.9m.
The next notable announcement from the 1,000-staff firm is likely to be progress on the Simpson Millar talks.
However, with a firm with some cash to spend in a market looking for a solution, you just never know.
Kinsella says: ‘We’re very satisfied – we feel we’ve achieved all the milestones we wanted to, we hit the forecast that we wanted to [and] that’s a very solid platform for moving forward with the acquisitions.’