Legal Business

All upstream for Burges Salmon as regional leader posts 8% turnover growth

All upstream for Burges Salmon as regional leader posts 8% turnover growth

Top-50 UK firm Burges Salmon has maintained a sixth year of growth increasing turnover 8% to £87.4m in the past year, up from £80.8m in 2014/15.

The firm also lifted profit per equity partner by 7%, up to £523,000, in the financial year ending 30 April. The increase saw PEP break the £500,000 mark, after it grew 11% the previous year to £485,000.

The Bristol-based firm also announced a new strategy last month, narrowing its sector expertise onto seven clear areas: transport, infrastructure, private wealth, real estate, energy, financial services and the public sector.

The firm has had some key client wins in the past 12 months, including a notable appointment to the John Lewis Partnership legal panel, joining Slaughter and May, Dentons and Eversheds.

The growth in turnover also follows more than £40m of investment into the firm’s business and offices since 2010, as well as appointing five new partners in its latest promotion round in March.

Burges Salmon senior partner Alan Barr told Legal Business: ‘We now have our PEP and profitability that greater than ever, we have absorbed all of our investment over that period and our turnover has grown year on year and this is now the most profitable year in the history of the firm.

‘This is real strong growth and growth delivered by the people here. This is the same business year on year improving.’

He added growth in real estate and energy projects had remained strong, as well as in its private client practice. Barr said improvement was still on the cards: ‘Our aim is 5% growth, but that is not an average or a hard and fast goal. That is driven by the desire that we should guarantee we keep rewarding the talent within the firm.’

Earlier this year, fellow Bristol-bred firms also posted strong turnover growth, with TLT announcing its double-digit growth of 15% in May when the firm bolstered turnover to £71.6m. Osborne Clarke saw a massive increase in UK revenues, up 17% from £96.5m to £112.9m.

matthew.field@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

Burges Salmon makes four partner promotions and adds Travers Smith partner to boost key growth areas

Burges Salmon makes four partner promotions and adds Travers Smith partner to boost key growth areas

Top 50 UK law firm Burges Salmon has promoted four individuals to partner, and made one lateral hire from Travers Smith, in a move to build up what it sees as its key growth areas.

The appointments made across the firm’s real estate, environment, pensions and banking sectors will come into effect on May 1, bringing the firm’s partner headcount to 85.

Burges Salmon pension lawyers Susannah Young, who qualified in 2005, and Alice Honeywill, who qualified in 2007 were added to the partnership. Young has a particular focus on providing trustees of both defined benefit and defined contribution schemes, while Honeywill specialises in technical aspects of pensions law and pensions tax.

Sally Jupp has been promoted to partner within the firm’s real estate team. Qualifying in 2005, Jupp specialises in real estate finance and corporate restructuring and insolvency for investment and development lenders. Meanwhile Simon Tilling will take up the role of partner in the firm’s projects department. Advising on all aspects of environmental law, Tilling qualified in 2006.

Burges Salmon managing partner Peter Morris (pictured) described Young, Honeywill, Jupp and Tilling as ‘highly competent lawyers who we have known for many years’.

Andrew Eaton joins the firm’s banking practice in its corporate restructuring and insolvency team from Travers Smith where he was a restructuring partner. Described by The Legal 500 as ‘calm, hardworking and effective’, Eaton’s work includes advising Promethean Investments on the acquisition of Albemarle & Bond out of administration.

Morris added: ‘The skills and expertise that he has built up over the years in this key area will complement and strengthen our corporate restructuring and insolvency team.’

Revenue was up by 6% to £80.8m from £76.5m in Burges Salmon’s 2014/15 financial results while profit per equity partner jumped 11% to £485,000.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

The promotions in full: 

Alice Honeywill, pensions

Sally Jupp, real estate

Simon Tilling, projects

Susannah Young, pensions

Legal Business

Bristol fashion – regional leader Burges Salmon drives revenues up 6% as PEP closes in on £500,000

Bristol fashion – regional leader Burges Salmon drives revenues up 6% as PEP closes in on £500,000

Top-50 UK law firm Burges Salmon has posted another year of solid growth as results released for the 2014/15 year show revenue up by 6% to £80.8m from £76.5m while profit per equity partner jumped 11% to £485,000.

Although revenue per lawyer dipped marginally to £241,000 from £247,000, overall the results mark a third consecutive year of growth for the Bristol-based practice, long established as one of the leading UK law firms based outside the City. The 76-partner firm last year saw a 4% increase in revenues, while operating profit was up 8% to £28.1m.

A breakdown of revenues for the 2014/15 trading period saw corporate and disputes generate the lion’s share of its work with 36% and 33% respectively while real estate accounted for 18% of revenue. Energy and real estate were highlighted as two of the strongest performing areas.

The result looks set to see the 335-lawyer firm place comfortably in the UK top 50 for 2015, making it one of only a handful of regional players in the grouping.

Major mandates won by Burges Salmon since last year include landing a spot on the National Local Government Pension Scheme’s recently launched legal services framework alongside 11 other firms.

Headline work included advising GDF Suez on the acquisition of West Coast Energy, acting for MeyGen on a flagship renewable energy project and advising The Co-operative Group on the sale of its farms business to Wellcome Trust.

The results come amid a starkly uneven 2015 reporting season that has seen wide disparities between winners and losers. Many leading City law firms have posted subdued results amid a stagnant European market while a pack of mid-tier UK firms have performed robustly.

Managing partner Peter Morris told Legal Business that the firm was in growth mode, commenting: ‘We’re very happy with [the financial results], particularly the improvement in operating profit and PEP. We’ve always said we’re not striving for growth for growth sake. It’s across-the-board – transactional activity was high, as was litigation, and pensions. We’re increasingly focused on our main sectors including energy, transports, PE, pensions and real estate.

‘The way national firms are going, they’re increasingly focused on different areas. We see ourselves as different to others. The way the market has changed in the last five years, we’re genuinely different and unique.’

Sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Click here for more financial results

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Travers Smith and Baker Botts lead on $1bn demerger; Mills & Reeve and Burges Salmon advise on Co-op farm sale

Dealwatch: Travers Smith and Baker Botts lead on $1bn demerger; Mills & Reeve and Burges Salmon advise on Co-op farm sale

A healthy uptick in transactional activity has brought a handful of players in line for a windfall, as City-firm Travers Smith and US-firm Baker Botts secured leading roles advising on the $1bn demerger of Paragon Offshore from drilling company Noble Corporation.Elsewhere, UK-firms Burges Salmon and Mills & Reeve landed heavyweight roles advising on the £249m sale of the troubled Co-operative Group’s farm business to charitable foundation Wellcome Trust.

The demerger of Houston-headquartered Paragon, a provider of standard specification offshore delivery units in the oil and gas industry, from international offshore drilling contractor Noble means the company will trade separately on the New York Stock Exchange.

Travers Smith corporate partner Richard Spedding led a cross-departmental team, including tax partner Simon Yates and employment and immigration partner Sian Keall, and employee incentives partner Mahesh Varia. The team provided English law advice on aspects of the deal. UK-based Noble is a longstanding client of Travers Smith, which in 2013 advised the drilling giant as English law counsel on its migration from Switzerland to the UK in 2013.

On US law aspects of the deal, Noble and Paragon were advised by Baker Botts partners David Emmons and Hillary Holmes, based in Dallas and Houston respectively.

Leading the Co-Operative Group deal was Burges Salmon corporate partner Nick Graves and real estate partner Alastair Morrison while Mills & Reeve’s head of agriculture Michael Aubrey led a 40-strong team advising Wellcome Trust.

Constituting the largest open market sale of agricultural land in the UK, the acquisition of the agricultural business arm included 39,533 acres of freehold and third party owned land, 15 farms, and more than 100 residential properties, 27 commercial properties and 255 employees.

Mills & Reeve’s Aubrey said: ‘This was a large and fast moving deal requiring both agricultural law expertise and experience of advising on high profile, complex corporate acquisitions – a combination which few law firms can boast.’

Sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Crown Estate halves coastal and rural property panel with appointment of Burges Salmon and Bond Dickinson

Crown Estate halves coastal and rural property panel with appointment of Burges Salmon and Bond Dickinson

The Crown Estate has halved its rural and coastal portfolio and Windsor Estate legal panel from four to two, re-appointing Burges Salmon and Bond Dickinson but not Clarke Willmott or Thomas Eggar, the sovereign property portfolio announced today (1 April 2014).

Both re-appointed firms have been instructed for five years from April 2014 by the estate, which manages a diverse property business valued at more £8.6bn, at which time a further review of requirements will be planned.

Burges Salmon will take responsibility for representing The Crown Estate across its rural assets, which together form one of the largest portfolios of agricultural, forestry and common land in the UK. The firm will also take responsibility for The Crown Estate’s Windsor Estate which includes Windsor Great Park, forests, residential and commercial properties, golf courses, a racecourse and tenanted agricultural land.

Bond Dickinson will represent The Crown Estate across its coastal holdings in England, which includes around fifty per cent of the foreshore and interests in ports, harbours, marinas and other commercial coastal developments.

Vivienne King, The Crown Estate’s director of business operations and general counsel said: ‘Both Burges Salmon and Bond Dickinson are business partners which have consistently provided us with an excellent legal service throughout our relationship, so we are delighted to be continuing to work with them following the outcome of our competitive tender process. Both firm’s sector specific expertise and understanding of our business will be a real asset as we continue to deliver on our long term commercial objectives.’

William Neville, who will act as the lead partner at Burges Salmon said: ‘We are very pleased to be appointed to provide advice on these important portfolios in the food, farming and land sector. Sian Edmunds, who joins the partnership on 1 May, and partner Alastair Morrison will lead our team of experts drawn from across the firm and will work closely with The Crown Estate’s managing agents at Knight Frank, Carter Jonas and Smiths Gore.’

Burges Salmon has a close relationship with the organisation, having been reappointed to its urban panel in 2011 as well as winning a spot on the rural panel in 2007.

Associate Matthew Sims led the firm’s mandate advising on the £31m sale of the group’s Honda depot in January 2014.

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) and Bond Dickinson were reappointed to The Crown Estate’s energy and infrastructure panel last July, cutting the body’s previous specialist panel from five to two in a move to consolidate ‘legal advice across an extremely diverse portfolio,’ according to The Crown Estate.

NRF, which was one of only two firms appointed to the Crown Estate’s first energy panel in 2008, advises on its activities in offshore wind, carbon capture, wave energy, natural gas storage and emerging technologies such as biomass, while Bond Dickinson advises on the estate’s marine aggregates business and its interest in transmission and pipelines, with chairman Nick Page acting as relationship partner to the client.

The estate, whose objectives are to maintain and enhance the value of the sovereign estate as laid down by parliament under The Crown Estate Act 1961, pays its profit to the Treasury each year: in 2012/13 this was £252.6m. Over the past ten years The Crown Estate has paid over £2bn to the Treasury.

Francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Burges Salmon’s head of corporate takes the National Express’ top legal role

Burges Salmon’s head of corporate takes the National Express’ top legal role

National Express has appointed Burges Salmon’s head of corporate and financial institutions Sandra Forbes as group general counsel and company secretary, becoming the second partner at the Bristol firm to leave for a major transport role in the last few months.

Forbes, who will take up her new position at the Birmingham-headquartered public transport company in early May, established Burges Salmon’s banking practice, having joined in 1991 and become a partner in 1996.

She will be replacing current GC Michael Hampson, who joined the coach, train and tram operator in January 2012, having previously been GC and company secretary at hospitality company Whitbread. It is as yet unknown where Hampson is going next.

During her time in private practice, Forbes has advised on a wide range of corporate financing transactions particularly in the transport sector, where her work has included advising on rolling stock leases in rail privatisation, new trains projects, and general corporate and asset finance facilities for transport companies.

Head of banking at Burges Salmon, Richard Leeming said: ‘We will miss working with Sandra but congratulate her on this fantastic opportunity to work at National Express. It was Sandra’s foresight and energy back in the early 1990s which established our successful banking practice and we thank her for that very significant contribution. This is an exciting change for Sandra and we wish her all the best.’

Forbes’ move comes just a few months after the top 50 UK firm’s head of transport Nick Olley left to take up the role of general counsel at the Department for Transport (DfT) in November, taking over from retiring Christopher Muttukumaru.

Olley had worked for the DfT in an advisory role and on a number of government rail contracts while working in Burges Salmon’s well-regarded transport practice since the mid-1990s, including advising the government department on boosting capacity on the East Anglia and East Midlands National Express lines and procuring new rolling stock fleets.

francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Real estate round-up: Clifford Chance, Taylor Wessing and Burges Salmon start New Year on front foot

Real estate round-up: Clifford Chance, Taylor Wessing and Burges Salmon start New Year on front foot

Clifford Chance (CC), Taylor Wessing and Burges Salmon have emerged as the pace setters for real estate work in the first few days of 2014, with each having completed significant UK commercial property deals recently.

Clifford Chance advised GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, on both the purchase of a 50% interest in the Broadgate Estate from Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe III and Blackstone Real Estate Partners VI and GIC’s 50:50 joint venture with British Land to ‘enable the future development of the estate,’ according to the firm.

The joint venture aims to focus on widening Broadgate’s appeal from a traditional City-focused occupier base to ‘cater for the growing creative district centred around Shoreditch and the emerging tech-focused area around Old Street’. British Land’s 2013 annual report cites the portfolio value of Broadgate at over £3bn.

As befits a deal of this scale, a very senior multi-disciplinary team was led by corporate partner Mark Poulton, alongside global head of corporate and incoming global managing partner Matthew Layton. The deal also featured London head of real estate Jonathan Solomon, corporate partner Adrian Levy, real estate finance partner Jane Cheong Tung Sing, real estate partner Nigel Howorth, head of real estate tax David Saleh, corporate partner Steve Curtis, and antitrust partner Greg Olsen.

Poulton said: ‘We were delighted to advise GIC on this major real estate acquisition and were able to field a multi-disciplinary team in order to meet the client’s requirements. This type of complex corporate real estate transaction is where we can really add value to our clients by bringing together our corporate, real estate, real estate tax, real estate finance specialists from across our real estate sector group.’

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s City-based corporate partner Michael Wolfson led the team advising Blackstone, alongside Berwin Leighton Paisner.

Meanwhile Taylor Wessing advised longstanding client Wainbridge, a private real estate investment group, on the purchase of 11-15 Grosvenor Crescent, SW1, from the Grosvenor Estate, in a £350m scheme that will comprise eleven exclusive apartments overlooking Belgravia, with associated parking and leisure amenities.

Taylor Wessing real estate partner Keith Barnett led the team, which included finance partner Martin Yells, and corporate tax partner Robert Young. The team also advised on the related acquisition and development debt funding provided by Urban Exposure and Letter One, marking the latter’s first financing in the European real estate market.

Principal and co-founder of Wainbridge, Rob Rackind, said: ‘Taylor Wessing were instrumental in our achieving the acquisition of this prime freehold site and in securing its funding. They have provided us with outstanding support.’

Meanwhile, Bristol-based top-50 firm Burges Salmon has acted for the Crown Estate, for which it is a panel firm, on the sale of Honda’s biggest storage depot in Cabot Park, Avonmouth to the BlackRock UK Property Fund and Canmoor for £31m.

Led by senior associate Matthew Sims, the deal forms part of a spate of £130m transactions that the Crown Estate unveiled at at the end of 2013.

Commenting on the sale, Sims said: ‘The firm’s real estate team acted for the Crown Estate in its purchase of Honda’s site in Avonmouth in 2005 and also in the sale of part of Honda’s original site in 2011 for £10.5m, which is now used by The Co-operative Group as a major regional distribution centre. Given our previous involvement, we were delighted to act for the Crown Estate again in its strategic disposal of this site.’

Sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Negotiations conclude over Simmons’ hire of Mahrie Webb from Burges Salmon

Negotiations conclude over Simmons’ hire of Mahrie Webb from Burges Salmon

Long-running negotiations have now concluded between Burges Salmon and Simmons & Simmons over the start date of funds partner Mahrie Webb, who in May became the City practice’s fourth hire to its low-cost Bristol office.

Simmons launched the South West base in September last year with the hire of financial services litigation partners Tim Boyce and Ed Crosse from Osborne Clarke.

However, Webb has yet to join and it is understood that Burges Salmon initially tried to hold the highly regarded funds lawyer to two years gardening leave but that figure has now been reduced to a year, with Webb expected to join Simmons in May.

While neither Simmons nor Burges Salmon would comment, the move is an indication of the way Simmons’ entry into the already competitive, overcrowded Bristol market is being viewed by the leading local firms.

Simmons’ Bristol office was set up to deliver efficiencies to clients and flexible service models and in theory is not in direct competition with local firms.

However, last October saw Simmons hire Burges Salmon banking partner Helen Hancock and speaking earlier to Legal Business one Simmons partner commented: ‘A lot of the Bristol firms think we’re competing in the Bristol market, which is not why we set it up.’

Attempts to enforce a notice period of this length are unusual. However in October it emerged that Field Fisher Waterhouse’s head of privacy, Eduardo Ustaran, is being held to a 19-month notice period before he can join Hogan Lovells.

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Bristol tussle over Simmons’ hire of Mahrie Webb from Burges Salmon

Bristol tussle over Simmons’ hire of Mahrie Webb from Burges Salmon

Negotiations are still underway between Burges Salmon and Simmons & Simmons over the start date of funds partners Mahrie Webb, who in May became the City practice’s fourth hire to its low-cost Bristol office.

Simmons launched the South West base in September last year with the hire of financial services litigation partners Tim Boyce and Ed Crosse from Osborne Clarke.

However, Webb has yet to join and it is understood that Burges Salmon initially tried to hold the highly regarded funds lawyer to two years gardening leave but that figure may be reduced to a year.

Legal Business

Financial results 2013: steady as she goes for Burges Salmon

Financial results 2013: steady as she goes for Burges Salmon

It’s been another year of solid organic growth for stalwart Burges Salmon, with revenue, profit and profit per lawyer (PPL) all up 4% at the end of last financial year.

The UK top 50 firm posted its highest ever revenue figure of £73.7m, up from £71m at the end of financial year 2011/12, with net income up to £23.5m from £22.6m and PPL up to £76,000 from £73,000. Profits per equity partner are flat, at £420,000 this year. This follows a 7% increase in turnover during the previous financial year.

Peter Morris, managing partner at the Bristol-based firm, which counts Nationwide, the Co-operative Group and the Crown Estate as clients, said: ‘Looking at the current year, the firm is well positioned to take advantage of opportunities in 2013/14, although we recognise that the UK legal market is likely to be at least as challenging as it was in 2012/13.

‘We were particularly pleased with the increase in the level of corporate transactional activity and solid performances from many other areas of the firm.’

In January this year, the firm was the major winner on the government’s new 48-strong legal roster, securing selection to seven of the eight sub-panels.

Notable recent work for the firm have included a role advising on the £2bn dairy co-op merger between Milk Link and Denmark’s Arla Foods and representing Leeds Football club in its successful Court of Appeal challenge over policing costs charged by West Yorkshire police.

The firm’s solid organic growth contrasts with the 14% revenue increase of local rival Osborne Clarke, which came as the result of recent European expansion.

francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk