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More growth for global traveller Bird & Bird as post-float Gordon Dadds hikes income 25%

Another year of international expansion has seen the 27th consecutive year of revenue growth for Bird & Bird as the firm posted a 6% rise to €382.3m and an 11% hike in sterling terms to £337m, as Gordon Dadds passed the £30m mark in its first results since its public listing.

In what chief executive David Kerr described as ‘strong growth’, Bird & Bird increased profit per equity partner (PEP) by 10% to £550,000 with the number of equity partners growing from 105 to 113.

In local currencies revenue increased 9% in a year in which the City-bred TMT leader opened two new branches and recruited a large team in continental Europe. Lawyer numbers are up from 1,141 to over 1,200 in 29 offices worldwide. Like-for-like growth was slightly slower than last year’s 11% rise .

‘The good thing is that we have seen growth across the board in all jurisdictions and practice areas,’ Kerr told Legal Business. ‘The focus we have is a good one because the world is seeing a lot of changes being brought by tech.’

The firm also nearly halved its borrowings to €26m after its public accounts revealed a €49.3m debt for the 2016/17 financial year . ‘The debt reduction is a combination of factors,’ the firm’s chief financial officer Richard Olver commented. ‘We didn’t raise capital at all, but we have got partners to contribute more quickly than before. We looked at how we chase clients and get them to pay on a reasonable basis. The success is visible in the figures.’

The year’s highlights included acting for Nokia in its global patent and antitrust dispute with Apple and advising on Darktrace’s $75m fundraising. ‘We are seeing more acquisitions driven in some ways by tech, in tech assets or in tech-driven businesses,’ noted Kerr. ‘There was a significant increase in data-related work for understandable reasons. I don’t think it’s just a one off. Data is becoming more important by the day, as is regulation. We have seen a big increase in the whole area of investigations driven by regulation.’

The firm also continued its international expansion over the year, signing a co-operation agreement with China practice AllBright Law Offices, opening its second Dutch office in Amsterdam  and launching a representative branch in San Francisco. Bird & Bird also brought in a 20-strong team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Budapest  in a move that saw the US firm shut its local operations.

Gordon Dadds, meanwhile, announced it has grown its top line 25% to £31.2m in the year to 31 March as it disclosed its first financial results since its listing in the Alternative Investment Market last August .

Profits before tax were up 23% to £3m as the firm acquired five businesses in the financial year, including tax advisory business CW Energy for £4m . Operating profits, which include partner profit shares, were up 19% £8.8m.

The group also acquired south London firm Alen-Buckley, legal and professional services business White & Black, as well as Bristol-based outfits Metcalfes and Thomas Simon. Gordon Dadds also recently opened a Hong Kong outpost and received approval to practice as a foreign law firm.

With most of the acquisitions completed towards the end of the financial year, the firm said annualised revenues were £42m.

Chief executive Adrian Biles said the group had ‘exceeded the expectations that we set for ourselves and for our shareholders’. He added that the group expected ‘significant further growth during the year’ and promised other acquisitions: ‘We continuously examine expansion opportunities and are engaged in discussions with firms in a number of other international jurisdictions. In the UK, we have a good pipeline of potential acquisitions with which we are at various stages of discussion or negotiation.’