Burness turnover £53m, but Brexit bites profit

Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney

Leading Scots law firm Burness Paull said turnover for the financial year ending July 31 rose 3.9% to £53.3 million –but profit fell 3.4% to £22.6 million as post-Brexit uncertainty led to “a significant pause in activity and client instructions.”

Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney said it was important for the firm to retain its “Scottish market intimacy and focus” but that international work now accounted for almost 40% of turnover and is creating opportunities in the United States, Canada, China and Norway.

Rodney said the firm believes the technology sector in Scotland will see significant growth over the next five years.

“Unlike most firms, our financial year runs to 31 July rather than 30 April,” said Rodney.

“The anticipation of, and the changed circumstances brought about by the outcome of the EU referendum inevitably impacted adversely on the last couple of months’ trading and are reflected in our results.

“The decision to leave the EU has been felt widely, as can be seen from organisations reporting across all sectors of the UK business community.

“While there will continue to be uncertainties, we are beginning to experience nearer normal market conditions as we work with our clients to support them in these changed circumstances.”

Burness Paull said that while its latest results showed more modest growth compared with the 38% increase over the last three years, profit margin remained high at more than 40%, with a number of successes setting the firm up well for the 2016/17 financial year.

Those successes included:

  • Completing the first private rented sector deal in Scotland
  • Completing the acquisition of the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness  – Scotland’s largest retail investment transaction of 2015
  • Advising US drinks giant Brown-Forman on its acquisition of Scotch whisky firm BenRiach
  • Advising Standard Life Investments on its sponsorship of the British and Irish Lions rugby team

Growth was also seen in the firm’s funds and banking business.

Burness Paull said it made substantial investments of more than £1 million in its people, systems and property in 2015/16 .

The 59 partner, 500-strong firm has offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Recent promotions include Paula Kennedy to partner in banking and funds in Edinburgh and Steven Guild to partner in dispute resolution in Aberdeen.

Key appointments were also made in Glasgow, where Ronnie Brown will lead the firm’s specialist tax division and Callum Sinclair will head up the technology sector group.

“We believe that the technology sector in Scotland will see significant growth over the next five years,” said Rodney.

“There is also an exciting and increasing requirement for top-tier support in this sector from our growing international client portfolio.

“We have won a number of new key clients over the last year including Scottish Leather and Ecotricity.

“We were also appointed to the European Panel of Weir Group.

“Going forward, while it is important for us to retain our Scottish market intimacy and focus, international work – which now accounts for nearly 40% of annual turnover – is creating a number of real opportunities particularly in the US, Canada, China and Norway.”