ince fall

An acquisition too far.


Adrian Biles is being replaced as the CEO of Ince and it is scrambling to raise millions of pounds, it has emerged. The listed firm's share price dropped from 12p to 5p as the market digested the news, from a high of 188p in 2019.

The bombshell market announcement revealed that Ince has been unable to repay a loan, lost £5m as a result of last year’s cyber attack, and is planning office closures and redundancies.

Ince says it must raise £8.6m or it will face “financial difficulties” which would require “alternative sources of funding in the short term, which may not be readily available or so advantageous”.

The firm has been reduced to considering loan sharks after a terrible couple of years, which Ince described as "continuously challenging conditions". It's a stark contrast to the glowing financial results being released by many other law firms.

Ince said Covid restrictions in the UK and Asia were partly to blame, and that its Hong Kong office is "under review" because money which was poured into the operation "has not led to similar cash returns".

Before it was acquired by Gordon Dadds, which then took its name, Ince was a shipping specialist, and management has also blamed the war in Ukraine for affecting global shipping, a key market. In March, ROF revealed that Ince staff were encouraged not to express a view on the conflict.

Ince’s announcement revealed the full scale of last year’s cyber-attack. Producing invoices was “impossible for an extended period” after the hack shut down Ince’s time recording systems in the crucial year-end period, and staff had to work on paper. Recovery "was longer and slower than anticipated" and its systems were still not completely restored by May 2022.

The firm estimated the cash impact of the hack at £4.9 million, although it may end up being higher. After the attack, Ince optimistically obtained an injunction to attempt to prevent the cyber criminals from using their stolen data. Insurance, if it applies, will only cover up to £2m, and the claim "could take up to 12 months to be processed and received". To make matters worse, whatever comes in will have to be handed straight over to repay a loan. 

All of which means that Ince is operating "at the limit of its borrowing facilities". The situation became so dire that two months ago the firm was unable to make a short term repayment.

Ince has 700 staff and 22 offices around the world, but now mass redundancies and the shuttering of offices are on the cards, raising the possibility the group will dispose of significant parts of its network. 

Management said it has identified “synergies” worth £1m following its £10m acquisition of Arden this year, and "further cost savings of £4.0 million across the Group". These include "potential for a reduced overseas footprint", "review and rationalisation of non-core business streams", and "further property rationalisation and headcount reductions and tighter control of overhead costs".

The disaster has claimed the head of the group’s CEO. Having masterminded the stock market listing of Gordon Dadds, Biles embarked on an aggressive growth strategy that saw the group snapping up troubled firms at bargain prices in pre-pack administration deals, including Ince. Staff shafted by the merger were only offered statutory redundancy, which won’t provide the current workforce with much comfort.

After winning the Golden Turd in 2019, Ince was criticised this year after it emerged that it had snaffled up £1.5m in Covid loans while simultaneously awarding Biles a £500k bonus.

The shareholders may have regretted their generosity after Ince announced it was buying Arden Partners. The broker and corporate advisor was also Ince’s nominated advisor, and under AIM rules, Arden had to resign as Ince’s NOMAD when the deal was announced, resulting in the embarrassing spectacle of Ince shares being temporarily suspended.

As if all that wasn’t enough, a PR nightmare engulfed the firm’s leadership in May after a chef tweeted allegations that one of his restaurant’s waitresses was "talked down to, disrespected, and touched unwantedly" by members of a group of Ince staff hosted by Robert Biles, the firm's head of finance.

In a humbling move, Biles, who will step down after the money is raised from shareholders and via a further bank loan, is being replaced by the CEO of Arden, Donald Brown. Asked if Biles's departure was connected to the restaurant incident, and if he was leaving the group as well as the CEO role, the firm did not respond.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

You, Ince, in any case 29 July 22 08:57

Haha. You couldn’t make this stuff up. They go from one tragedy to the next. I personally think Ince’s days as a (credible) law firm and employer are over.

 

Eggery 29 July 22 09:18

This is very sad. There are a lot of fine people at Ince but sometimes things just don’t work out.  Best wishes to all of you

Anon. 29 July 22 09:29

Ince Plc entire market cap now £10mill!

Pretty sure a couple of partners from any MC or US firm could just have a whip round to buy it then just put it down.

Dam Son 29 July 22 10:08

The block on employees expressing a view on Ukraine was odd given how this firm is always virtue-signalling how wonderfully inclusive and progressive they are. 

Louder than Bombs (money, that is...)

Ince trainee 29 July 22 10:18

We have an amazing female managing partner. She’s going to fix everything. Cracking the Alderman whip. 

Anonymous 29 July 22 10:42

Almost every law firm of any size has mirror servers which back up to the previous day and/or week and only when there has been no compromise of the data. It means you can roll back quite easily to the position before the cyberattack happened but with the necessary security in place to prevent the attack succeeding a second time. Simples. 

Julian 29 July 22 11:49

I shouldn’t have joined this firm. Anyone want an all singing all dancing shipping partner who doesn’t fee-earn? Rock on!!

Boon 29 July 22 13:27

I have just picked up a few shares. If, by some miracle, they can right the good ship Ince then my kids might yet have a Christmas this year.

Anon 29 July 22 13:56

The firm won't last more than 6 months. Any partner with a half decent practice will leave. As will anyone in HK after reading the press. Once you reach this point, there's nowhere to go but downhill. This is just the end of a very slippery downward trajectory that started about 6-years ago when their best people started leaving. Sad but they tried to diversify too late. 

Anon 29 July 22 15:32

Only 3 members of the Biles family now remain partners at Ince. Old man Biles was supposed to retire in May but is still listed as a partner

A genuine Ince employee 29 July 22 17:57

At last some news. It may not be good, may not even be positive. However at least leadership has spoken and change is afoot. The comments maybe true and the firm has no future, maybe not so true. However, rebuilding can only come from change and that has to start with direction, leadership and communications, everything that has been evidently lacking in the past few months! (some may say years, I have no comment).

Get this sorted, run a business and demonstrate some leadership and we may find out just how relevant all the negativity is (or is not!).

SecularJurist 30 July 22 01:46

Oh dear. Buying shares in any law firm that has decided to become a PLC is as good an investment as buying shares in football clubs once was.

 

Former incer 30 July 22 18:41

Ex incer in the hong kong shop from a lifetime ago. The seeds were sown more that a decade past unfortunately. Hopefully they pull through. It may happen; these are strange times. But just chronic mismanagement after chronic mismanagement. They refused to diversify until it was too late and when they finally did so, well... they did it badly. I hope it works out ... I still have some mates on the ol sinking ship but I'm not holding my breath. 

Ex incer 30 July 22 18:44

@a genuine ince employee

 

You sound relatively new. The rot is deep. Good training. Very decent lawyers but management has royally screwed up for more than a decade 

Oddity 31 July 22 13:05

Everybody else apart from Ince and Knights seem to be doing really well.  
This suggests poor management and poor strategy.

Who knows what the Ince strategy is?  We at least know Knights strategy is to buy up lots of high street law firms and rebrand them.

Both seem clueless and will really struggle once we go into full blown recession. 

 

Knights LLP 01 August 22 18:17

“Knights LLP” lmaooooooo

wasn’t a bigger toilet turd deserving to be flushed down the cesspit than that regional bucketshop.

Squid Games 02 August 22 08:18

We are in recession now and it’s going to get a lot worse.  If you’ve struggled to turn a profit in the last few years then there’s a good chance you won’t get through this one.

Anon 02 August 22 13:13

Sensationalist and irresponsible reporting at it's very worst.... Shameful, and so potentially damaging during what are difficult times for many businesses 

LeMansRacer 02 August 22 18:47

How funny. A Legal Firm that tells you on their website how great they are and can help with data security,… and then they get hacked and have nothing effective in place themselves.
They claim hundreds of thousands for furlough, and pay the boss a massive bonus. They treat staff wrongly, at least in a restaurant, I wonder if they treat their own the same? 

Maybe, maybe not 03 August 22 07:06

Isn’t Knights, like Ince, a plc?

I don’t think it’s an LLP.

Both seem to be struggling whilst everybody else is doing well.  Just goes to show that the Golden Turd table doesn’t lie.  

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