DWF, Manchester law firm, eyes more acquisitions

Manchester-headquartered international law firm DWF on Monday issued a trading update for its half year ended October 31, 2019.

DWF, which went public in March 2019, said its international business is helping to drive growth and that it continues to eye acquisitions.

“The group has continued to deliver on its stated strategy and the board is pleased with first half revenue growth of not less than 10% across the group, the vast majority driven by organic activity,” said DWF.

“International and Connected Services continue, as expected, to deliver the strongest revenue growth in the period with increases of approximately 29% and 18% respectively.

“Insurance and Commercial Services delivered combined organic growth of approximately 5%, in line with guidance.  

“This growth was weighted towards the Insurance division and the Litigation practice group within Commercial Services, reflecting DWF’s strong counter-cyclical offering. 

“Net debt of £49.5m reflects a £9.5m reduction on the same period last year in line with management expectations for the half-year. 

“The increase versus April 19 primarily reflects the normal cyclicality of partner tax payments in addition to the £3m dividend payment in September.  

“We continue to focus on improving working capital management with lockup days reducing by two from the April 2019 position, demonstrating good progress towards the 5-10 day medium term target. 

“This reduction reflects an underlying increase in WIP days since April of 15 days, which is part of the normal seasonal WIP cycle, with a reduction in debtor days of 17 reflecting significant improvement in credit control efficiency.

“Management expects further improvements in working capital and the company’s net debt position to be in line with guidance for the full year.

“DWF increased net partner headcount by 20 on a full-time equivalent basis in the period through its successful partner hiring and promotion programme, demonstrating DWF’s ability to attract and retain talent.  

“This includes the recruitment of 15 senior hires, 14 partners and one director, to its international business in the final two months of the period.

“The company also has a healthy lateral hire pipeline demonstrating the attractiveness of its global platform to deliver complex, managed and connected services.

“DWF announced a 1.25p dividend per share on 13 November. 

“This represents the first interim dividend in respect of the six month period ended 31 October 2019, in line with the company’s stated dividend policy as detailed in its prospectus.”

In its outlook, DWF said activity levels and its second half pipeline of work remain robust, adding that “M&A activity also remains part of the group strategy with a pipeline of carefully chosen targets being assessed for feasibility.”

The firm said its board remains confident in DWF’s prospects and anticipates that it will deliver further revenue and profit growth in line with management’s expectations.

DWF CEO Andrew Leaitherland said: “The first half of the year has seen a number of important milestones achieved as we continue to deliver on our IPO promises, developing the business in our first year as a listed entity.

“We have launched in Poland, made significant investment in partner hires globally, expanded our German operation with a presence in Dusseldorf, and seen a robust UK performance, particularly in Insurance and Litigation, despite the political uncertainty. 

“The group also won a significant contract with BT, demonstrating the progress of our Managed Services platform.

“Going forward, we will continue to supplement this organic activity with selective M&A, with our associations and broad market reach providing a strong pipeline of opportunities.”