Slater & Gordon circles Pannone as consumer legal services market consolidates

Slater & Gordon is circling Manchester-based Pannone with the intention of making the firm’s consumer business its next strategic acquisition.

Sources close to Pannone said a period of due diligence is underway and that a demerger of the firm’s private client business is expected, with Slater & Gordon top of the list of likely purchasers.

An email is believed to have been circulated among staff at Panonne informing them that an announcement will be made at the end of the month. Partners are expected to vote on the move as soon as Monday (23 September).

Any takeover could potentially result in the breakup of Pannone and the spin off of its referral service, Connect2Law, and white-labelling arm, Affinity.

A tie-up between the firms would move Slater & Gordon a step closer to its goal of being the lead consumer firm brand in the UK, with the pair combining personal injury, clinical negligence, family and employment groups.

Slater & Gordon, which is listed on the Australia Stock Exchange (ASX), refused to comment referring to its regulatory obligations to the market. 

“At any point in time we are in discussions with a number of firms,” the statement said, “but as a publicly listed company if we did have an announcement to make about a potential acquisition of a material nature we would of course first make an announcement to the ASX. We are not in a position to comment on any specific anonymous reports at this time.”

Pannone, meanwhile, said it would look at opportunities that were in line with its strategic aims It added: ”There is nothing to report on this particular rumour.”

Slater & Gordon has steadily built up its UK arm since first entering the market through the acquisition of Russell Jones & Walker in January 2012 (30 January 2012). The firm’s latest acquisition, that of personal injury firm Fentons, was unveiled in August as the firm revealed turnover of £45.6m for the UK branch of  the Australian firm (21 August 2013).

London and Manchester-based Fentons will add approximately 280 staff and annualised revenue of £27.7m to the UK business. Slater & Gordon’s report to the ASX said the two firms had executed a formal business sale agreement and due diligence had been substantially completed. It is expected to be complete in October 2013.

In May the firm revealed planned acquisitions of Simpson Millar, Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters  (7 May 2013). Deals with Taylor Vinters (19 August 2013) and Goodmans (30 August 2013) completed in August adding annualised revenues of £3.9m and £3.4m respectively.

Discussions with Simpson Millar have been deferred until early next year.

For more on this read our blog: Another Mancunian merger for Slater & Gordon?