27 Jul 2021

Ince’s profits hit by £3.2m closure of floor at London headquarters

Revenue at listed firm increases by 4% to £100.2m; Covid-19 costs include decision not to reopen one of two floors

April 13 2019: Image taken of Aldgate Tower at 2 Leman Street, London E1 8FA. Aldgate station was not busy as this was taken on a weekday late afternoon.

The lease to one of two floors at Aldgate Tower will be terminated in October 2022 unless a sub-let can be secured Mrtravelbunny; Shutterstock

UK listed firm Ince has recorded a 59% fall in operating profit to £3.1m after incurring a series of ‘non-underlying’ Covid-19 related costs, including £3.2m associated with the permanent closure of one of the two floors at its London headquarters.

Revenue at the shipping and insurance specialist rose by 4% to £100.2m for the year ending 31 March, with profit before non-underlying items holding steady at £9.2m.

In total, the firm reported £6m of non-underlying costs, which, alongside the office ‘abandonment’ expense, also included outlays associated with 47 redundancies made last autumn.

Chief executive Adrian Biles described the firm’s financial performance as ‘satisfactory in the circumstances’. However, the firm said dividend payments remained suspended until its interim results later this year.

A host of UK firms have been reporting double-digit hikes in profitability. Biles pointed to a number of factors that had held Ince back, including restrictions in UK court activity, particularly for insolvencies.

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He added that the closure of its London offices at Aldgate Tower during lockdown had ‘undoubtedly hindered the development of the business in acquiring new clients and freely interacting with existing clients’ as well as ‘the interactions between colleagues from which business ideas and opportunities arise and the very important development of our trainee and junior lawyers’.

He welcomed an expected return to office work in the autumn and revealed that ‘a greater degree of working from home for at least the medium term’ meant the firm had decided not to re-open one of its two floors in Aldgate Tower, meaning the lease would be terminated in October 2022 unless a sub-let could be secured.

Dispute resolution revenue across the firm fell by 18% to £13.9m with UK revenue down 4.9% to £58.7m. Overall growth was maintained thanks to the performance of its Asia offices, where revenue was up 19% to reach £25.3m and EMEA, which secured a 21.8% increase in income to £16.2m.

“The analysis of revenue... shows that the overseas offices have made good progress as the addition of partners over the last eighteen months has started to build revenue in all of the overseas offices,” said Biles. “This progress continues and there will be further growth internationally.”

Highlights of the past year cited by the firm included the striking of a strategic cooperation agreement with 2,000-lawyer strong Chinese practice W&H Law Firm last December and the opening of a Cyprus office in September.

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