Halliwells to appoint administrator; BLG and Hill Dicks vie for assets

Halliwells has filed a notice of its intention to appoint an administrator, with Hill Dickinson and Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) understood to be circling to take the firm’s assets.

The firm filed the notice at Manchester High Court’s district registry with BDO Stoy Hayward partner Dermot Power expected to be appointed administrator. It is understood that the firm’s bank, RBS, will appoint Power.

It is likely that the firm will go into pre-packed administration if a purchaser for the business’s assets can be identified today.

It is thought that Liverpool-based Hill Dickinson is interested in acquiring Halliwellls’ Manchester corporate practice, as this would give it a leg up in the North-West city after Darryl Cooke, who the firm hired from DLA Piper in 2007 to build the Manchester corporate practice, left earlier this year.

BLG is believed to be interested in acquiring Halliwells’ insurance practice, which includes major clients such as AIG and AXA.

The news comes after Halliwells experienced a drop in profitability and a substantial rise in debt at the firm over the last two years. This resulted in RBS taking out a debenture over the firm’s assets last year (19 February 2009).

The firm has not announced financial results for the 2009-10 financial year, but last year reported a drop in turnover of five per cent to £83m. Average profit per equity partner (PEP) fell by around a third to below £300,000 while the firm’s profit margin stood at 14 per cent.

Halliwells has made several rounds of redundancies since the start of the recession and last year reorganised its finances. This was followed by the unprecedented move of using its property, fixtures and fittings, LLP goodwill and IP as security on an extension of its lending facilities with RBS.

BLG and Hill Dickinson declined to comment. Managament at Halliwells did not return calls for comment.