Penningtons acquires Manches as merger talks close

Penningtons has acquired Manches in a move that will see 265 Manches employees and 46 partners move to Penningtons and operate under the name Penningtons Manches.

The Lawyer first revealed that the two firms were in advanced merger talks in September (24 September 2014). At that time it was understood that Manches had been scouring the market for a merger partner for months. A partner vote was initially thought to be due weeks ago, however the decision was officially made late this afternoon (14 October).

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed as administrators to oversee the sale of Manches.

Chief executive of Penningtons Manches David Raine said: “This agreement fits with our strategic aims and responds to the ever-changing legal environment in which we now operate. The synergy between Penningtons and Manches was evident early on in our discussions and by joining forces we will be able to offer an enhanced level of expertise to all our clients. The strong reputation and combined experience of our people will enable us to maximise our potential in our core practice areas and in the key sectors in which we operate.”

Manches has recently been attempting to reboot its financial growth, particularly since its failed 2009 ­merger talks with Halliwells. At the end of the latest financial year Manches’ net profit fell to a 10-year low, dropping by 42 per cent from £3.7m to £2.15m, while its average profit per equity partner fell below £200,000 for the first time since 2004/05. 

The year saw high-profile family law partner Helen Ward, who was understood to have been one of the firm’s biggest billers, exit for rival Stewarts Law in September 2012 (19 September 2012), becoming the fifth partner to make the journey to Stewarts in around three years.

Meanwhile South-East firm Penningtons saw its revenue hold steady in 2012/13, rising from £32.3m to £32.5m. This followed on from the previous year’s 35 per cent turnover increase on the back of a double merger. The firm merged with St Alban’s firm Wedlake Saint and Lincoln’s Inn outfit Dawsons (3 May 2011) that year, adding 10 to the partnership and replenishing the net losses of the past six years.

The turnover of the merged firm is £58m. Penningtons Manches is now represented in seven locations – London, Basingstoke, Cambridge, Godalming, Guildford, Oxford and Reading, with 115 partners and over 600 staff.  Both firms point to synergies in real estate, private client and family with Manches head of Thames Valley’s private client practice Anne Burnside having previously worked at Penningtons.