Burness Paull tops dealmaking table again

Friday, 13 March 2020

Burness Paull LLP has been confirmed as the top-performing legal dealmaker in Scotland for the fifth year in succession.

The independent law firm advised on 304 publishable transactions with a cumulative value of £31.4 billion - topping the figures for the previous 12 months, 263 deals worth £30.1 billion.

The scale of Burness Paull’s transactions - delivered by the largest and most experienced M&A team in Scotland, with 60-plus lawyers - was revealed today in the latest Scottish Business Insider deals table.

Mark Ellis, Head of Corporate Finance, said: “Our corporate and M&A team has had its busiest-ever period and it’s been our privilege to work with clients on exciting and transformative deals. Our relentless focus on providing value to clients through expert commercial advice on complex deals from the very best legal talent has cemented our market-leading position over the past five years.”

Mr Ellis said there had been more deals with a global or cross-border element, primarily driven by private equity. He also highlighted a rise in market share for Burness Paull’s core business with Scottish corporates and investors and said the firm was “always seeking to grow the depth in our ranks to increase the breadth of support available to clients”.

In the past year, Burness Paull’s significant deals included: 

  • AIM-listed Murgitroyd Group – £62.8 million takeover by Sovereign Capital Partners; 
  • Bluegem Capital Partners – £300m sale of its stake in Liberty London; 
  • Savannah Petroleum plc – acquisition of Seven Energy International in Nigeria;
  • 1825, the financial planning business of Standard Life – acquisition of the advisory business of Grant Thornton; 
  • AIM-listed Springfield Properties, a leading house builder in Scotland – £31 million acquisition of Walker Homes;
  • Royal London – sale of its defined benefit pension consulting and administration business to FTSE-listed XPS Group plc; 
  • Shareholders of McConechy’s Tyre Service, one of Scotland’s best-known family businesses – sale of the company to Halfords Autocentres; 
  • Shareholders of First Mortgage Direct - sale of the company to Mortgage Advice Bureau PLC. 

Mr Ellis added: “Deal volumes have increased because investors, corporates and management teams have cracked on and gone for it. Sitting back and waiting for the world to change is not an option.

“Private equity funding has become far more embedded across the M&A landscape and driven deal activity. PE-backed companies now constitute a significant proportion of private M&A in the sub-£50m bracket; and there has been a significant growth in the number of debt funds who provided debt funding alongside an equity sponsor, meaning less need for traditional bank debt.

“Technological change continues to drive deals, from corporates buying up tech businesses and assets to exciting new businesses obtaining VC funding. The growth in the number of investors targeting pre-revenue and early stage tech businesses has been a significant market feature.

“There have been significant moves towards consolidation in financial services driven by increased regulation and technology. In this area, we advised 1825, the wealth management division of Aberdeen Standard Life, on acquiring a series of businesses, including Grant Thornton’s wealth management arm.”

He concluded: “The pipeline of M&A activity looks strong. There is lots of interest in renewable assets and we anticipate that energy transition and technology supporting energy efficiency will be a key feature of deals in the year ahead.”