SJ Berwin’s debt rose by over 300 per cent in last financial year, LLPs reveal

SJ Berwin’s net debt rose by 321 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12 on the back of a large tax bill caused by rising profitability.

The firm’s LLP accounts, filed at Companies House on Tuesday (22 January), show that the firm’s net debt rose from £1.9m in 2010/11 to £8m in 2011/12, while debt due within one year rose from £6m in 2010/11 to £10.5m in 2011/12.

The firm said the rise was largely due to an increased tax bill on account of a profit jump. Average profit per partner at SJ Berwin rose by 40 per cent in 2010/11 and 1 per cent in 2011/12 (20 June 2012).

Managing partner Rob Day said in a statement: “As is the nature of LLP accounts, they are a snapshot in time. These particular accounts happen to show a point in time when a significant tax payment was made in respect of a previous accounting year where our tax bill rose due to a significant rise in profit.”

Separately, the accounts state the firm’s revenue figure for 2011/12 as £179.9m, a 2 per cent increase on £176m in 2010/11.

The audited figure is marginally lower than the £180m the firm announced last summer, although as the 2010/11 revenue figure was also below the announced turnover, the increase is larger than the 1 per cent previously reported.

Day commented: “In order to provide figures as quickly as possible we have to estimate our WIP [work in progress] valuation. Following our further assessment we decided to include a reduced WIP valuation which we provided to our auditors and explains the slight variation of figures.”

The accounts also reveal that the firm’s top earner received a profit share of just over £900,000 in 2011/12, an 8 per cent drop on the equivalent figure in 2010/11. The firm’s highest-earning partner took home £927,648, compared with £1.006m during the previous financial year.

The 2011/12 figure is also 7 per cent lower than the estimated figure for the firm’s top of equity of £1m reported in The Lawyer UK 200 2012.