Legal Business

‘Challenges and opportunities are interlinked’: revenue growth cools slightly at Ashurst as profits stall

Ashurst has marked its seventh consecutive year of revenue growth, with a 10% increase in turnover for 2022/23 from £798m to £879m. While this represents slower growth than than last year’s 12% jump, this is still above its seven-year average of 8% annual growth.

However, PEP was down very slightly: £1.17m, compared to £1.175m last year. This stalling  stands in contrast to last year’s 13% increase, though it is offset by an increase in partner headcount, from 447 last year to 469 this year. The firm made 28 lateral hires in the last financial year, and lost six partners, for a net gain of 22.

Ashurst again reported that over 85% of its revenue came from its five key focus industries of banks and private capital, real estate, technology, infrastructure, and energy and resources.

Over half of the firm’s revenue came from the UK, continental Europe, and Middle East, which accounted for approximately 35%, 15%, and 4%, respectively. Global CEO Paul Jenkins (pictured) noted ‘above-benchmark growth in the Middle East, continental Europe, and Germany in particular’. He also pointed to the US as a ‘priority growth market’, citing growth there of 20% – above the 15% the firm reported last year.

Jenkins put growth in the firm’s global disputes, investigatory, and advisory division, which incorporates the dispute resolution, competition, employment, IP and media, and tax teams, at around 20%. The firm also reported a similar rate in work relating to the energy transition in the US, France, Germany, and Australia.

The firm’s static profitability, meanwhile, gave Jenkins no cause for concern: ‘In a year of challenging macroeconomic conditions and a slowdown in transactional markets, we’re very happy to achieve this level of revenue growth and to maintain our profitability. All firms have seen their cost base significantly increase over the last year, including through higher inflation and rising costs. There is also continued investment needed in IT, including generative AI, to keep pace with advancements in technology. We’re happy with the year we’ve had.’

This year’s figures saw the firm hit the targets for 2023 it laid out in its strategy in 2019. Now, the firm looks ahead to the next four years with its 2027 strategy. ‘Our aim is to continue to grow, particularly in our priority markets, specifically the UK, France, Germany, the Middle East, Singapore, the US, and Australia.

‘We aim to maintain our focus on our core industries and double down on our strengths in core practice areas. In the US, we have strength in infrastructure and financial institutions. The missing part is in our other core industries – energy, real estate, private capital, and technology – and that’s where we’re going to invest.’

The firm was also bullish about its expanded offering, including its New Law division Ashurst Advance, which saw revenue growth of over 25%, and its risk advisory business, which expanded into the UK in the last year.

Looking ahead,  Jenkins said:  ‘The challenges and opportunities are interlinked. For example, the challenges include the continued drive to provide more for less, to use technology to the benefit of our clients, to make sure that it’s augmenting our services – which we are doing through our New Law business, Ashurst Advance, one of the fastest-growing areas of our firm. We also need to make sure we continue to retain and attract the best talent.’

Legal Business

‘Delighted to be the first’: Ashurst unveils Korean joint venture

Ashurst announced today (29 November) the rubber-stamping of a joint venture with South Korean firm HwaHyun, claiming to become the first international firm permitted to practice local law in the jurisdiction. 

The association, which was approved by the Korean Ministry of Justice today, brings to fruition a longstanding aim for Ashurst. The firm first signalled its intent to launch in Korea when its legal market opened in 2011, before putting plans on ice in 2016.  

Ashurst chief executive Paul Jenkins (pictured) told Legal Business that at launch, the new Korean entity will have four partners, two from each firm. He added: ‘It’s a differentiator in the market – we now have a local team, with local knowledge, who are able to practise local law. It came from listening to our international clients – it’s something they wanted us to do in this key global market.  

‘It’s hard to say what other firms will do but I expect that given our clients see this as a game changer, other firms will seek regulatory approval in due course. In any case, we’re delighted to be the first.’  

Ashurst has a pre-existing outbound Korean practice which operates across several offices globally. Led by partners John Kim and Huiyeon Kim, the practice counts Hyundai Motor Group, Samsung Group, SK Group, POSCO and Hanwha Group as clients. 

HwaHyun is a full-service firm specialising in corporate, IP, technology and dispute resolution, and as such shares notable practice strengths with Ashurst. The firm is led by co-managing partners Kyung-Shik Shin and Nak Song Sung – Shin boasts 27 years’ public service experience, including as chief prosecutor for the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office, while Sung served as a judge for over 30 years. 

Shin commented: ‘Ashurst has impressive credentials and a clear vision and strategy for what it wants to achieve in Asia and globally. HwaHyun is a solid mid-sized law firm in Korea with very strong local capabilities and continuing aspirations for international practices. This significant development is a key step in both firms delivering on their ambitions.’ 

Korea is already home to a host of key international players such as Dentons, Allen & Overy and White & Case. Despite Ashurst’s claim, Dentons became the first international law firm permitted to practise local law in South Korea, via its combination with local firm Lee International in 2020.  

Legal Business

‘A responsibility I take very seriously’: London litigator Dunne elected to new-look Ashurst board

Lynn Dunne, disputes partner and co-head of Ashurst’s London office, has been elected to the firm’s board for a three-year term.  

Dunne, a new addition to the now ten-person board, was voted in alongside London real estate partner David Jones, who was re-elected to the body having been originally nominated in 2019.

The board, which is headed by global chair Karen Davies, comprises global chief executive officer Paul Jenkins, partners Phil Breden (Sydney), Lynn Dunne (London), David Jones (London), Kylie Lane (Melbourne) and María José Menéndez (Madrid), chief financial officer Mark Herbert (London) and independent board members Wu Gang and Robin Lawther. 

For Dunne, the appointment is the culmination of more than a decade of service at Ashurst, having joined in 2011 from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. She has co-managed the firm’s London office since May last year, and also heads Ashurst’s EMEA contentious financial services group. She is best known in the market for her specialised financial institutions strategic advisory practice spanning banking disputes, regulatory investigations and insolvency and restructuring disputes.  

Speaking to Legal Business, Dunne (pictured) said she would be stepping down from her role as London co-managing partner to focus on her new board position, with a replacement yet to be announced. She commented: ‘I am really honoured to be elected – honoured and privileged to be chosen by my fellow partners in particular – and it is a responsibility I take very seriously.  

‘The board and executive team have been very busy and the firm has a great momentum at the moment. For me, the initial priority will be to listen closely to the partnership to act in their interests, as well as to participate in the finalisation of our 2027 strategy. That will be a core focus.’ 

Jones meanwhile is head of Ashurst’s real estate capital markets team, and acts for major real estate investors on inward investment into the European market. He has advised on a number of major investments in the UK and continental Europe, including representing ARA Dunedin and ARA Asset Management Limited on the acquisition Marble Arch Place in January this year for £280m. Jones is a firm veteran, having been with Ashurst since 1992.  

In its most recent set of financial results, Ashurst unveiled a robust 12% uptick in turnover to hit £798m while PEP was up by 13%, reaching £1.175m.  

Dunne is confident that the firm can continue to be successful in the face of economic headwinds. She concluded: ‘Macroeconomic conditions this year are going to be challenging and all firms will have to adapt to that. We are fortunate because we are a well-hedged business, so the board and I remain confident about the year ahead.’ 

Legal Business

Globetrotting Ashurst continues frenetic growth with double-digit revenue and profit boosts

Marking its sixth consecutive year of revenue growth, Ashurst has reported a robust set of financials headlined by a 12% jump in turnover from £711m to £798m.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) was also up by a significant rate, growing 13% from £1.038m to £1.175m. According to the firm, revenue and PEP have grown respectively by 8% and 12% on average each year over the last six years.

Mirroring the buoyant results reported by peer firms in the last couple of weeks, Ashurst saw consistent growth across all jurisdictions and practice areas. According to chief executive Paul Jenkins (pictured), the firm’s UK ‘engine room’ was up by double digits, with similar rates of increase across Australia, continental Europe and the US.

US growth, notable given Ashurst’s recent expansion into Texas, was at ‘over 15%’ according to Jenkins. On the prospect of further openings or tie-ups, Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘At the moment our focus is on our infrastructure business and further developing our key areas of sectoral strength such as private capital, financial institutions, energy transition and digital transformation. We continue to look at all opportunities in terms of how we achieve more growth there, and I expect that to form part of our 2027 strategy.’

Jenkins expects Asia to be a focus of investment over the next 12 months, with the firm ‘looking at opportunities’ following growth in Singapore, Greater China, Shanghai, and the Middle East.

In terms of sectors, Ashurst said that over 85% of the firm’s work is derived from its focus industries: banks and private capital, real estate, infrastructure, energy and resources and the digital economy. On the practice area front, Jenkins highlighted the performance of Ashurst’s corporate division. A standout mandate from the past year was the firm’s representation of WM Morrison on its £7.3bn takeover by PE house Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, led by the London office.

Ashurst is ambitious about its New Law arm, Ashurst Advance, which has seen growth from 3% of global production hours to 8% since 2019. Jenkins has set a target to get to 10% in production hours in the near future.

And on potential headwinds, Jenkins concluded: ‘Conditions will undoubtedly be more challenging, and firms will need to adapt. But we have a well-hedged, diversified business from both a practice and office perspective, so we remain confident.’

Legal Business

International round-up: Ashurst pursues American dream with Texas opening as Eversheds expands in Bulgaria

In a week of globetrotting action for firms, Ashurst has solidified its American ambitions by opening a new office in Texas.

In May, Legal Business reported that Ashurst was seeking to add depth in the US as a ‘strategic priority’, with chief executive Paul Jenkins stating the firm needed ‘to do more in the US over time.’ Jenkins said that it was in the firm’s core sectors, which included infrastructure, financial institutions-related work, the digital economy, real estate, energy transition and funds, that Ashurst could be doing more stateside.

This week’s opening falls neatly into Ashurst’s aim of building out its sector expertise in the country as the firm branded it a projects and infrastructure play. Anna Hermelin, co-head of Ashurst’s Americas projects practice commented: ‘With plans for major investment in infrastructure development over the next five years, establishing a small branch office in Austin allows us to further capitalise on the significant market opportunities and provides a collaborative workspace for our US lawyers to continue to meet client demand.’

To lead the new hub, newly-arrived infrastructure partner Wes Strickland will be splitting his practice between Los Angeles and Austin. Strickland, who will be managing partner in Austin, joined Ashurst last October from Holland & Knight. Ashurst confirmed that as of launch, Strickland will be supported by one other lawyer.

In Europe, Eversheds Sutherland has formalised a long-standing relationship with Bulgarian relationship firm Tsvetkova Bebov & Partners to officially launch in the region. The tie-up hands Eversheds a four-partner office in Sofia led by M&A partner Irina Tsvetkova and capital markets partner Nikolay Bebov.

The other partners are Damyan Leshev, a specialist in capital markets and banking, and Victoria Tzonkova, who advises clients on transactions, dispute resolution, insolvency, and employment law matters. Joining the four partners are 15 other lawyers, who bring both a national and international client base.

Ian Gray, Eversheds’ European chair, told Legal Business that the move offered the firm’s clients ‘more geographic coverage under a consistent brand.’ He also hailed the impact of Tsvetkova: ‘She is a very effective leader and bringing a strong female leader into our business is a real plus in our ambition for greater diversity.’

Tsvetkova added: ‘By joining forces with Eversheds Sutherland, and having the weight of a global brand behind us, we will be able to drive further growth of our practice across CEE. This is a very important step for us. Our people, our clients and our communities will all benefit from our more visible presence in the market.’

Legal Business

America or bust: Ashurst on the hunt for US merger partner

Ashurst is understood to be pursuing merger partners in the US as a strategic priority, rekindling its aspirations towards a stateside combination.

No discussions have reached a formal stage, however, it is believed the firm has been seeking a merger partner since before the pandemic.

According to global chief executive Paul Jenkins: ‘We are continuing to strengthen our presence in the US. We have 15 partners there at present, and over the last year this growth has included the appointment of Wes Strickland and relocation of partner Jon Turner to Los Angeles from the UK, as well as several counsel and associate hires and promotions. Our current sectoral strength in the US includes infrastructure, and financial institutions-related work.

‘Where we are strong sector-wise globally – including those two areas, and also the digital economy, real estate, energy transition and funds – we see the need to do more in the US over time. It’s no surprise that it is a strategic priority for us, as it is for many firms, and it has been a strategic priority since prior to the pandemic.’

As outlined in our 2019 deep-dive on Ashurst, the firm has been in various courtships for a US tie-up since the millennium. Still described as the best deal that never happened, merger talks in 2000 between Ashurst senior partner Geoffrey Green, managing partner Ian Nisse and Latham & Watkins chair Robert Dell came to nothing thanks to a mutual suspicion of compensation structures. Besides Sidley Austin in 2013, another credible suitor was Fried Frank in 2002/03. Other US firms that Ashurst has been linked with over the years include Mayer Brown and White & Case.

The watercoolers of peer firms are abuzz around potential suitors, with names including Crowell & Moring, Locke Lord and Orrick put forward by market sources claiming knowledge. The latter two firms would make the most sense, with notable synergies in infrastructure and finance. All three would considerably expand Ashurst’s American footprint, which currently amounts to two offices in New York and Los Angeles. For context, a tie-up with any of the three firms would add offices in San Francisco and Washington DC.

A US merger would be a suitable progression for the firm after stabilising the ship in recent years – turnover stuttered in the years immediately following Ashurst’s 2013 merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson, but since Jenkins took over in 2016, revenue has jumped by 40% with an average annual growth rate of over 7%.

Legal Business

Happy 200th birthday: Ashurst chief Jenkins re-appointed for four-year term

In an emphatic endorsement of five years’ sustained revenue growth, Ashurst global chief executive Paul Jenkins has been reinstated for a further four-year term from 1 November 2022.

Having originally been elected CEO in 2016, Jenkins has successfully guided Ashurst through a tricky post-merger period, with revenues far exceeding expectations. Turnover stuttered in the years immediately following Ashurst’s 2013 merger with Australian firm Blake Dawson, but over the course of Jenkins’ tenure the firm’s revenue has jumped by 40% with an average annual growth rate of over 7%.

In the latest round of financial results in July 2021, Ashurst breached the £1m-profit-per-equity-partner barrier for the first time since the global financial crisis, while revenues received a double-digit boost to reach £711m. 

Just like in 2019, Jenkins’ appointment was based on extensive consultations with the firm’s partnership and staff as conducted by Ashurst’s board – underlining his popular internal support.

Ashurst’s global chair Karen Davies, who was elected in 2021 as successor to Ben Tidswell , said of Jenkins: ‘This significant growth has been achieved through setting a clear vision and direction for the firm and disciplined strategic planning. It has included sharpening the firm’s sector focus, strengthening our capabilities in key markets and focusing on our clients and people. Inclusion, diversity and belonging has been a particular priority, as has advancing our responsible business and sustainability agenda.’

Jenkins said he relished that his appointment will coincide with Ashurst’s 200th anniversary in 2022, before setting out his key priorities: ‘Ashurst, like any other business, will be managing the lasting effects of the pandemic during 2022 and beyond. Continuing to adjust to the societal and economic impact of the pandemic will be key, including prioritising the ongoing health and well-being of our people, and encouraging new ways of working.

‘We are focused on unlocking growth for our clients, and see opportunities across our five priority sectors arising from the significant investment by our clients in sustainability, energy transition, digital transformation and new digital assets. The opportunities for growth point to a future that is very different to the past.’

In terms of strategic highlights from his current term, the firm points to ‘significant investments’ in its new law business Ashurst Advance as well as its consulting arm, Ashurst Consulting. Ashurst claims that the Advance platform has nearly doubled in size each year of Jenkins’ tenure, while Ashurst Consulting has turned over more than £10m in revenue since its 2020 launch.

Since the 2020 financial year, Ashurst has achieved 30% revenue growth in Continental Europe. And in more people-focused achievements, the firm has reached a 30% target of women in senior leadership roles, with 50% on Ashurst’s global executive team and 61% in senior business services roles.

Looking ahead, Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘Generally law firms have had a solid 12 months. I don’t want to speak too soon but common with the market, we are seeing very strong activity over the last nine months. All the signs are positive.’

Legal Business

Financials 2020/21: Ashurst breaks the £1m PEP barrier again as turnover climbs 10%

In another set of buoyant pandemic financial results, Ashurst has breached the £1m-profit-per-equity-partner barrier for the first time since the global financial crisis, while revenues received a double-digit boost.

PEP stood at £1.038m, a striking 15% increase on last year’s £903,000 figure. In doing so, Ashurst has fulfilled managing partner Paul Jenkins’ ambition to top £1m in PEP , albeit a year later than hoped. 

There was also an impressive 10% growth in revenue, climbing from £644m to £711m. On a five-year stretch, Ashurst’s revenues have grown by a resounding 40%, while PEP jumped an above-trend 72% over the same period.

On breaking the £1m PEP barrier, Jenkins (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘I don’t think there is a particular symbolic significance to it, we achieved it a number of years ago. I am more pleased with the fact that we have now had five consecutive years of strong revenue growth and 85% of our revenue this year came from our five focus sectors. Reaching £1bn in revenue will however be symbolic, and we are now not far off achieving that milestone.’

A pre-merger Ashurst previously topped £1m PEP in the 2007/8 financial year, before profitability nose-dived at most firms amid the global financial crisis.

As alluded to by Jenkins, Ashurst saw over 10% revenue growth in each of its banks and private capital, digital economy and energy and resources sectors, but the firm’s international network also proved a significant source of growth. Continental Europe and Asia both achieved double-digit revenue increases, with ‘particularly impressive’ performances in Germany, Paris, Luxembourg and Singapore. Ashurst confirmed that its UK business was also up by double-digits.

Ashurst is the latest in a line of firms to report a flurry of transactional activity in the second half of the financial year which boosted results. Key mandates highlighted by the firm included advising PPL Corporation on the £7.8bn sale of UK electricity distribution group Western Power Distribution, and assisting software company AVEVA Group on its $5bn buyout of OSlsoft.

Jenkins concluded: ‘The trading performance we saw throughout FY21 has continued into the new financial year. We have maintained momentum in the market, with each division starting the year ahead of budget.  We have an incredibly well-diversified business and there are some significant opportunities in the industries in which we have great strengths. We are in a strong position to deliver on our ambitious growth strategy for this financial year and beyond.’

For more on Ashurst’s unlikely rebound in recent years, see ‘Inflection point – Ashurst steps back from the brink but can the revival last?‘ (£)

Legal Business

Respected Ashurst dealmaker Karen Davies steps up to succeed Tidswell as chair

Ashurst has elected formidable M&A veteran Karen Davies to succeed Ben Tidswell as its global chair, making it the latest major law firm to elevate a senior female partner.

Davies, who is currently UK head of corporate and a member of the global board, will begin her four-year term as chair in August.

She has long been recognised as one of the City’s most prolific and influential dealmakers, no mean feat given the historical boys’ club environment that was certainly still in existence as she climbed the ranks.

Speaking to Legal Business, Davies said: ‘I’m really proud, I feel privileged. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being on the board over the last four years and acting as UK head of corporate. For me, it’s the opportunity to serve the firm and to take us to the next phase of our growth, which is going to be a really exciting time. We’ve got our defining strategy and we’ve had a fantastic year and it’s now about taking us to the next level.

‘I absolutely want to carry on with the fee-earning – doing deals is what I love. We have a fantastic business in corporate, we have hugely talented senior partners, excellent junior partners that I’ve helped to bring through over the last few years and some really strong senior associates. We have a very strong bench that will support me on transactions. Being close to clients and doing the transactions is important for you to understand client issues, so I definitely want to strike that balance.’

Tidswell noted: ‘Karen has an outstanding track record in delivering for our clients, our people and the business and I know she will make an extraordinarily good chair.’

Global managing partner Paul Jenkins echoed the sentiment: ‘I have worked very closely with Karen as UK head of corporate and a member of our board and her ability to combine management and leadership roles with a very successful practice is truly impressive. Her incomparable commitment, client focus and drive will be invaluable to the firm in her new role.’

For his part, Tidswell has been much-admired for helping steer Ashurst through some difficult years following its 2013 merger with Blake Dawson, alongside Jenkins. He is standing down from the partnership and has accepted a judicial appointment as a panel chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The new configuration of the board will be: chair Karen Davies (London), global managing partner Paul Jenkins (London/Sydney), partners David Jones (London), Tobias Krug (Frankfurt), Phil Breden (Sydney), Kylie Lane (Melbourne), chief financial officer Mark Herbert (London) and independent board members Wu Gang and Robin Lawther.


Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Management Partner of the Year

We now come to the penultimate award of our 2020 Legal Business Awards season and we are delighted to reveal our Management Partner of the Year.

The winner of this award is a UK-based managing partner, senior partner, head of chambers, chief executive or chief operating officer who truly led the way for their business in 2019. Key factors that influenced our judging panel included market profile, outstanding strategic thinking, superb communication skills and the extent to which these individuals have the support of staff and clients in driving the firm’s business forward.



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Winner – Paul Jenkins, Ashurst

That Paul Jenkins was reappointed as Ashurst’s global managing partner for a second four-year term last summer spoke volumes, reflecting the credit he has won for turning Ashurst’s fortunes around following a struggles with profit and revenue growth since the merger of Ashurst and Blake Dawson in 2013.

Hitting every metric for success for the 2018/19 financial year, with profit per equity partner increasing by 61% and revenue enjoying a 27% uptick, Ashurst acknowledges Jenkins for ‘the clarity of his vision, strength of his leadership and inimitable work ethic’. And justifiably so.

Jenkins has pioneered a sharp focus on key practice areas, the success of which is reflected in 90% of the firm’s revenue now being generated by those sectors, while performance has been bolstered across all regions and investment in Asia has yielded impressive results.

He has also won plaudits for streamlining the executive and promoting a high-performance culture, abolishing lockstep in favour of a merit-based remuneration system, stepping up staff performance reviews and encouraging collaboration.

Jenkins also oversaw the implementation of extended points and a bonus pool in which all partners can participate. Elsewhere, Ashurst Advance was made into a division of the firm, highlighting a heightened emphasis on innovation and digital transformation. The year also saw the launch of Ashurst Digital Ventures, the in-house development and investment arm of Ashurst Advance, which creates, designs and builds digital products.

Jenkins has also been commended for re-setting gender targets and for making strides in the firm’s diversity and inclusion agenda. He was the first law firm leader to join the Male Champions of Change programme in Australia, which works with leaders in the business community to redefine men’s role in promoting gender equality.

Ashurst says of its respected global managing partner: ‘The firm demanded transformative and decisive leadership, which is precisely what Paul Jenkins has delivered. He has ensured that Ashurst has continued to evolve, adapt and renew itself which has delivered for the firm, its people and its clients.’

Highly Commended – David Pester, TLT

April 2020 saw David Pester, one of the UK’s most successful and longstanding law firm leaders, step down as managing partner of TLT, a firm that he has taken from Bristol-focused contender to a top 50 firm in the Legal Business 100.

Since Pester was elected to the helm in 2001 following the merger of Trumps and Lawrence Tucketts to form TLT, revenue has grown from just £8m to £87.6m; the firm has opened six new offices; and increased in size to more than 1,000 staff.

His legacy as he made way for incoming managing partner John Wood has been a solid financial foundation and exceptional governance. In 2019 Pester said of his stepping down: ‘One of the things I’ve learned over 19 years is whenever you go through the different trading cycles there’s always opportunity. I’ve been making sure the TLT balance sheet is as strong as possible to take advantage of difficulties others may face in the market if it becomes more uncertain. John’s got a fantastic platform to work from.’

Other nominations

Charles Martin, Macfarlanes

Macfarlanes remains one of the most successful and profitable operators in the City, which is largely thanks to the outstanding leadership of senior partner Martin over the last 12 years. As the firm saw new leadership take over in April, it should acknowledge the contribution of Martin’s cool head at a time when many rivals were losing theirs. A class act.

Lee Ranson, Eversheds Sutherland

While Eversheds has had its fair share of successful and charismatic leaders over the years, Ranson has driven the firm during one of its most progressive phases since being elected in 2016. Financial performance has been strong since its transformative tie-up with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, while the spin-off of alternative service Konexo in 2019 was the latest strategic masterstroke.

Michael Ward, Gateley

Ward hung up his boots in May after more than 30 years at Gateley, having achieved more than most law firm leaders possibly could. While remaining a shareholder in the UK’s first-ever listed law firm, Ward hands over a firm that has gone from a third-tier Birmingham outfit to a £100m national player via a tie-up in Scotland and a stock market listing.