08 February 2019

DWF heads for LSE Pre-Brexit listing

Law firm DWF is heading for a pre-Brexit March £75m listing on the London Stock Exchange, but partners face five-year lock-up period.

If successful, DWF will be the biggest law firm listing, overtaking the Knights £50m listing last June, and will become the first legal practice eligible for admission in the FTSE.

Quarter free float

The firm said it expects to announce the final offer price following its marketing and book-building process. DWF said it expects the company to have a free float of at least 25 per cent of its issued share capital, and intends to use the proceeds to repay a portion of members’ capital contributions, invest in its infrastructure, to provide working capital including funding for acquisitions and to pay expenses related to the listing. The firm also expects partners, who have received shares in the company in exchange for the capital they have paid into the business, to sell shares as well in connection with the offer.

Partner lock-ups

However, the partners will be subject to a lock-up post admission which will expire in April 2024. Shares will be released from lock-up in tranches, 10 per cent each year following the firm’s financial results, and a further 10 per cent subject to performance. Locked up equity will also be released in the event an individual becomes a ‘good leaver,’ with provisions to claw back locked up equity if an individual becomes a ‘bad leaver’ or if performance requirements are not met. DWF said it would target a dividend payout ratio of up to 70 per cent of its profit after tax.

International moves

The Manchester-based firm has announced a series of international moves over the past 18 months including an ‘exclusive association’ with Los Angeles-headquartered firm Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman (WSHB) and office openings in Singapore, Italy and Qatar, as well as adding new offices in Australia, and a ‘strategic alliance’ formed in Turkey.