BLP bounces back as it slashes borrowings to zero

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) paid off a £32m bank loan to end the 2014/15 financial year with £12.5m net cash, its strongest financial position for almost a decade.

Cash flow improved by £41.8m between 1 May 2014 and 30 April 2015, according to the firm’s LLP accounts. In 2013/14 BLP had £35.4m in borrowings and overdraft but this was reduced to just £715,000 at the end of the last financial year.

The decrease in borrowings means BLP ended the year with net cash for the first time since 2005/06, when it had £16.4m in the bank at year-end.

BLP saw its greatest increase in net debt between 2011/12 and 2012/13, when its bank borrowings soared 223 per cent from £13.94m to £45m. That amount was reduced in the following financial year.

The accounts also show that BLP increased its shareholding in contract lawyer offering LOD from 70 per cent in 2014/15 to 75 per cent on 31 July last year.

Last year’s accounts confirm a strong year for BLP with turnover and profit both rising. Net profit increased by 14.5 per cent, from £66.2m to £75.8m while revenue rose 5.4 per cent, from £245.7m to £259.2m.

Meanwhile the firm’s highest-paid partner received £1.54m in 2014/15, up 28.6 per cent from £1.2m the previous year. The average number of LLP members shrank between 2013/14 and 2014/15, from 179 to 163.

In contrast, the number of staff employed by BLP rose to 1,245 from 1,204 the previous year. Despite this rise the firm’s total staff costs decreased by £1m, from £109.2m to £108.2m. A 6 per cent increase in wages was offset by a 68 per cent drop in ‘other staff costs’ – after pensions and social security – from £9.3m to £3m.

2014/15 was the last year in which BLP was led by managing partner Neville Eisenberg. Eisenberg stood down at the end of the year, to be replaced by employment head Lisa Mayhew. He is now senior partner after being appointed to replace outgoing Harold Paisner.

For more on UK firms’ debt positions, read the executive summary of our UK 200: Financial Management report. To purchase the full report contact Richard Edwards on +44 (0) 207 970 4672 or email richard.edwards@centaurmedia.com