Irwin Mitchell returns to ABS table with debt collection company buyout

Irwin Mitchell is bidding for its sixth alternative business structure licence after announcing plans to buy a field agency and arrears management company.

John Pickering
John Pickering

The firm is strengthening its ABS-approved subsidiary Ascent’s debt collection and field agency capability by acquiring PDP Management Services – a 30-employee company that includes major utility businesses and financial institutions as its clients.

The acquisition requires SRA approval and will need a further ABS licence, following the confirmation in August of Irwin Mitchell’s five licences for its group structure (20 August 2012).

It is the first hint of how the top 20 firm plans to build on the long-awaited SRA approval of its split legal and business services arrangement.

Ascent chairman Mark Higgins said the deal will improve its position in the financial services and utilities sectors.

As Irwin Mitchell became the first multiple-licensed firm, group chief executive John Pickering said the plan was to grow the business and challenge mid-tier corporate firms through merger and acquisition.

Today, he said in a statement: “Ascent is an expanding business and an important part of our growing and successful group. Our strategy has been to build a diverse legal practice which offers a wide range of high-quality legal services across both the business and personal client sectors. This fits well with our strategic growth plans for both Ascent and Irwin Mitchell.”

Peter Wilson from PDP added: “This development is very much welcomed as a natural progression for our company, which was started by the three founding directors in 1997 – David Thomas, Peter Gander and myself – and has over that time established itself as a strong brand in the utilities and mortgage arrears counselling arenas.”

Under the terms of the deal, PDP will continue to trade under its name and remain based in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

It is not known how long the ABS approval will take after Irwin Mitchell waited eight months for its first five licences.

The £183.7m turnover firm was among the first to show its hand on ABS when in April 2011 (25 April 2011) it unveiled plans to generate a £50m warchest of external investment and then applied in the first week of January 2012 for ABS status.

There have been a number of high-profile ABS moves recently, with Parabis-Duke Street getting the green light (22 August 2012) and insurers AA and Direct Line outlining their intentions to apply (8 October 2012).