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Law firm admits it would not rule out merger move

LAW firm Maclay Murray & Spens (MMS) has reported strong growth in profits and turnover but admitted it would not rule out mergers in the future.

The Scottish firm, which has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and London, said it had seen improvements across practice areas such as tax, financial services, real estate and corporate.

During the year it worked on high profile transactions such as Aberdeen Asset Management's takeover of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and the sale of the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee.

Turnover in the 12 months May 31, 2014, increased by 7.3 per cent to £43.3 million, up from £40.4 million.

Profit available for distribution to partners grew 30 per cent from £10.8m to £14.1m with profit per equity partner up by £50,000 to £261,000.

The firm, traditionally one of Scotland's largest, had turnover of more than £50m prior to the downturn. While the turnover posted for 2014 is a strong rebound from the prior year it remains below the £47.3m posted even in 2011 and the £46.3m for 2012. However, Kenneth Shand, who took over as chief executive on June 1 this year, indicated he is satisfied with the progress the firm is making.

He said: "We are feeling in pretty positive shape but we are by no means complacent. We need to keep alert and keep looking for opportunities."

MMS looked into a possible merger with Bond Pearce in 2012 but no agreement was reached.

Following that former MMS chief Chris Smylie had indicated the firm would still consider mergers if the right deal came up.

Yesterday Mr Shand reiterated that position but said there is nothing major in the pipeline.

He said: "We are not poised with pens at the moment but it is one of the things we would look at.

"We do have a strategy to pursue sustainable and sensible growth and we are open minded about how that is achieved.

"The possibilities of mergers, whether of a smaller or larger scale, is there but it is not a be all and end all objective for us at this point in time."

According to Mr Shand trading in the new financial year has got off to a good start.

He said: "We feel we have entered a new financial year not having cleaned out the cupboard entirely. There is a good continuation and sustained activity, with June being a good month.

"The underlying sense is there is a lot of work compared to previous years at this point in time so one can be reasonably hopeful that will be a feature for the current year."

As yet the firm has seen no slowing of work or deferring of decisions ahead of the Scottish independence referendum vote.

Mr Shand said: "I don't know to what extent the Scottish group will be slightly slowed down by the distractions of the next couple of months. We are not seeing a huge impact from that [yet]."

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