Trowers to tie up with Devon’s Stones in £85m UK domestic push

Trowers & Hamlins is to merge with Devon firm Stones Solicitors in October, further bolstering its UK regional offering and creating an £85m revenue firm.

The merged firm will be named Trowers & Hamlins and will consist of almost 690 staff and lawyers, including 130 partners across six UK offices initially.

Stones has approximately 90 staff including 14 partners. It turned over around £5m last year. The firm has two offices in Exeter and Devon.

Trowers will be seeking to combine both firms’ Exeter offices to “bring everyone under one roof eventually”, said head of housing Sara Bailey.

Trowers senior partner Jennie Gubbins said the merger would  “allow us to build on the successes of our existing Exeter offering”.

Gubbins will continue in her role as senior partner following the combination.

“It positions us to grow our regional presence and reputation in the South West region and to build on our existing real estate offering there, in particular helping us to broaden out our social housing and public sector heritage,” Gubbins added. “For the first time we’ll be able to offer corporate and private wealth expertise from a regional base, giving us the opportunity to expand our regional non-public sector practice and better service our clients.”

The decision to acquire a regional firm was made 12 months ago, revealed Bailey.

“It was part of our regionalisation strategy,” Bailey said. ”We have a major real estate profile and practice throughout all our offices. The merger with Stones will help accentuate this as they have a very good real estate offering on the private side.”

Stones chief executive Adam Richards said: “This is very much about Trowers & Hamlins choosing us as a business partner, and it is a reflection of the high quality of our work and expertise.” Richards will take on a key role in the implementation of the merger, said Bailey, though his title post-combination has not yet been decided.

Outside the UK, Trowers has been scaling back its Middle East offering over the last four years in favour of domestic investment. It opened in Birmingham in 2011 to focus on the affordable housing sector; closed its Jeddah office the same year; pulled out of Riyadh after being forced to terminate its exclusive alliance in the region in 2012; and closed its Cairo office in January 2014.

The firm now has 593 staff and fee-earners including 118 partners across its London, Birmingham, Exeter and Manchester offices, which provide real estate, construction, public sector, employment, banking and finance and litigation advice. It has a further 200 staff internationally across offices in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Oman and Malaysia.

The firm saw international profit plummet by 96 per cent from £2.5m to £100,000 in the last financial year. Its non-UK practices now generate just 0.5 per cent of its global profit of £19.5m in 2014/15.

Trowers’ UK revenue rose by 5.5 per cent last year to £64.7m, with net profit up 7.2 per cent to £19.4m.