Gateley Wareing

Gateleys has no plans to expand out of the Midlands – at least for now

Gateley Wareing has offices in Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester, making it the only firm with a presence in all three of the Midlands’ major business centres. But for now the firm has no plans to expand its geographical reach, according to senior partner Michael Ward.

Gateleys has nevertheless grown rapidly during the past year. Earlier this month it hired corporate partners Paul Cliff and Katie Silvester from Birmingham rival Hammonds to help bolster the firm’s plc client base.

Cliff and Silvester will join Gateleys’ corporate services group, which accounts for 40 per cent of the firm’s annual turnover and encompasses the corporate transactional, commercial, employment and private client units.

In 2002, Gateleys took on a number of partners, including Richard Pettifor and David Lloyd Jones, who joined the firm’s property services group from Wragge & Co and Hammonds respectively.

The string of lateral hires brings the total number of partners at Gateleys to 23. Although Ward says there are no imminent plans to hire more partners, he nevertheless expects the firm to continue to grow organically. “We see ourselves growing organically rather than through an acquisition or merger, although this can’t be ruled out,” he says. “As far as size is concerned, we don’t limit our growth and will grow if we continue to win client assignments.”

The corporate services department, which comprises five partners, has a reputation for advising owner-led businesses, venture capitalists and clearing banks in the Midlands region on deals up to the value of £50m. Ward, who also heads the department, says that although the firm will continue to service these clients, there is a need to grow the business in the public company arena.

“We want to move into larger plc work, because we see this as a natural progression for our corporate services group,” explains Ward. “We’ll achieve this by targeting corporate finance houses that advise plcs on takeovers and mergers.”

Historically, the firm has advised HSBC Bank, Bank of Scotland and National Westminster Bank in connection with a number of private equity deals.

Despite the economic downturn, Gateleys completed well over 100 deals last year. The firm advised Lloyds British Testing, one of the UK’s leading lifting equipment suppliers, on its admission to AIM, as well as DCC, the owner of Flogas UK, on its purchase of the liquid petroleum gas business of British Gas for £41m.

The property services and dispute resolution groups each generate 30 per cent of the firm’s fee income.

The dispute resolution group has been instructed by the administrators of Christiani & Neilsen, a major engineering contractor, to pursue a claim against its insurers for the cost of substantial remedial works that were needed in connection with the construction of a major port facility. The firm is advising the administrators on a conditional fee basis, which Ward says is unusual in the commercial arena.

Gateleys’ turnover for the year ending 30 April 2002 was £10.5m. This represents an 11 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure. Ward says this is a lower percentage than in previous years, but argues that it reflects a slow year in which most firms will have struggled to reach double figures.