Ashurst turnover climbs to £586m, PEP up 22% after Australia merger

Ashurst has announced turnover of £586m in the first combined results since the UK firm fully merged with its Australian arm, with average profit per equity partner (PEP) hitting £801,000.

The results for the 2013/14 financial year are the first to integrate the two firms’ figures, after partners voted in favour of a full financial tie-up with Ashurst Australia in September (26 September 2013).

The firm said taken on a like-for-like basis, with results for the two legacy firms merged for the previous financial year as well as last year, turnover was up 6 per cent and PEP had risen by 22 per cent.

In 2012/13, Ashurst posted a static turnover figure on the previous year – inching up 0.3 per cent, from £322m to £323m, for its UK arm only. However, average profit per equity partner fell by 9 per cent, from £744,000 to £680,000, while net profit dropped 6 per cent, from £112m to £105m (5 July 2013).

Managing partner James Collis said it was not possible to directly compare the legacy Ashurst figures from 2012/13 with last year’s results. He added that activity levels had been consistently high through the year, with work picking up in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific from the third quarter of 2013 onwards.

Finance and restructuring had been particularly busy, according to Collis. “A lot of the practice areas that face off against the financial markets globally have seen an uptick in activity,” he said.

Collis said Ashurst was focusing heavily on operational efficiency, pointing in particular to its Glasgow support office. The base was officially launched in June last year, funded partially by a joint venture between the Scottish Government and its economic development agencies (12 June 2013). As a result of the move, the firm cut more than 120 support staff jobs from its City HQ (4 October 2013).

Glasgow now employs 120 people, and will add at least two qualified lawyers by the end of the current calendar year (16 June 2014).

“The really exciting thing about Glasgow is what it says abotu the future and the way the legal industry’s evolving,” he said.

Collis said the financial results were testimony to the work Ashurst’s lawyers and staff had put in in the past year.

“The firm’s been through the biggest year of change in its history, and I think to produce a result like this is a hell of an achievement,” he told The Lawyer.

Last year Ashurst also re-jigged its global governance structure (11 July 2013), selected Sydney-based Mary Padbury as vice chair (18 October 2013), and ousted its former senior partner Charlie Geffen from management – voting litigator Ben Tidswell into its newly-established chairman role (16 October 2013). It has since voted in a new global board (5 November 2013).

More recently it put the focus firmly on diversity, aiming for at least 40 per cent of partner promotions to be women by 2018 (4 June 2014).

Despite its positive financials, Ashurst has seen a number of departures over the past 12 months, with heavy-hitting partners including its global corporate head Stephen Lloyd heading for the door. Lloyd moved to Allen & Overy, alongside up and coming corporate star Karan Dinamani (4 March 2014).

Meanwhile, the firm also witnessed the exit of corporate partners Eavan Saunders Cole to William Fry in Dublin, and Jonathan Earle and Nigel Stacey to Gibson Dunn (10 June 2014).

On the finance side, partner Nick Benham departed for Davis Polk & Wardwell while Simon Thrower quit for Simmons & Simmons (13 June 2014).

During the period, the firm also hired new debt capital markets partner Francis Kucera from Linklaters (9 December 2013), and took on former Allen & Overy chief finance officer Brian Dunlop (29 April 2013).