Source - LSE Regulatory
RNS Number : 9281L
Keystone Law Group PLC
16 September 2021
 

16 September 2021 

Keystone Law Group plc

('Keystone' or the 'Group' or 'Company')

 

Half year results for the six months ending 31 July 2021

 

Strong financial performance; well positioned to capitalise on opportunities in the recruitment market

 

Keystone Law Group plc (AIM: KEYS), the fast growing, UK Top 100, challenger law firm, today announces its half year results for the six months ended 31 July 2021 ('H1-2022').

 

Financial Highlights

·      Revenue of £33.7 million (up 37.6% on H1-2021; up 10.2% on H2-2021)

·      PBT of £4.3 million (up 118% on H1-2021; up 23.1% on H2-2021)

·      Adjusted PBT of £4.6 million (up 109% on H1-2021; up 22.4% on H2-2021)

·      Basic EPS of 10.8 pence, up 116% from 5.0 pence in H1-2021

·      Adjusted EPS of 11.9 pence, up 105% from 5.8 pence in H1-2021

·      Cash generated from operations of £4.2 million, up 27.2% from £3.3 million in H1-2021

·      Maintained robust cash position of £7.2 million, remain debt free

·      Declared interim dividend of 4.5p

 

Strategic Highlights

·      Activity levels across all practice areas have been very high throughout the period.

·      Conditions in the recruitment market have been similar to those of H2-2021, with 136 qualified new applicants (H2-2021: 108) and 28 accepted offers (H2-2021: 29).

·      Our unique and operationally efficient model continues to drive strong organic growth with 21 new joiners growing the number of Principals to 386 (H1-2021: 347).

·      Lawyers have grown their practices to support increased activity, with 83 (31 January 2021: 74) Pod members operating across 48 Pods.

·      The business now has a total of 479 fee earners (H1-2021: 426).

·      Our collaborative and supportive culture is at the heart of Keystone, being a fundamental element of what attracts and retains our lawyers. As such, throughout the first half we have used technology to continue delivering a broad range of social and networking opportunities to our lawyers.

 

Current trading and outlook

·      Activity remains buoyant and we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that will result from the further impetus generated in the legal recruitment market as the Covid-19 restrictions are fully relaxed and potential candidates are required to return to the office during the second half of this year. As such, We are confident that we will deliver another good performance during the rest of this year which will be materially ahead of current market expectations.

 

James Knight, Chief Executive Officer of Keystone Law, commented:

 

We have delivered another impressive set of results, continuing to grow our lawyer base and demonstrating strong increases in both revenue and profit, all of which once again validates the attractive nature of the Keystone model.

The legal market remains very busy and we are well positioned to take advantage of the further opportunities which we believe the "return to work" will present.

I am looking forward to carrying on delivering strong results in second half of the year.

-ENDS-

 

For further information please contact:

    Keystone Law Group plc

James Knight, Chief Executive Officer

Ashley Miller, Finance Director

www.keystonelaw.com

 

+44 (0) 20 3319 3700 

Panmure Gordon (UK) Limited (Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker)

 

Dominic Morley (Corporate Finance)

Erik Anderson (Corporate Broking)

www.panmure.com

+44 (0) 20 7886 2500

 

 

Investec Bank plc (Joint Broker)

 

Carlton Nelson

James Rudd

www.investec.co.uk

 

Media enquiries:

+44 (0) 20 7597 5970

 

 

FTI Consulting 

         

Laura Ewart

+44 (0)7711 387 085 

keystonelaw@fticonsulting.com

 

 

The information contained within this announcement is deemed to constitute inside information as stipulated under the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) No. 596/2014 as it forms part of UK domestic law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ("MAR").

 

Analyst Briefing

A meeting for analysts will be held virtually at 9.30am today, 16 September 2021. Analysts wishing to attend this event can register via email at keystonelaw@fticonsulting.com. Keystone's Half Year 2021 results announcement will also be available today on the Group's website at www.keystonelaw.com

 

Notes to editors

Keystone is an award-winning law firm, providing conventional legal services to SMEs and high net worth individuals in a £9bn addressable market.

 

Keystone has a scalable and unique model, with three defining characteristics:

·      Our lawyers have freedom, flexibility and autonomy, and are paid up to 75% of what they bill.

·      Our lawyers determine how, when and where they work, in contrast to the conventional law firm model.

·      We offer lawyers full infrastructure and support via its central office, bespoke user-friendly IT platform, and network of colleagues and events.

 

Keystone is a full-service law firm, with 20 service areas and more than 50 industry sectors delivered by over 380 high calibre self-employed Principals who work from their own offices.

 

In November 2020, Keystone was named Law Firm of the Year by The Lawyer, the first time a 'new' law firm has won the award.

 

More information about Keystone can be found at www.keystonelaw.co.uk.

 

 

Chief Executive Officer's Statement

I am delighted to report that Keystone has delivered a very strong financial performance in the first half of this financial year ('H1-2022' or the 'period'), with revenue rising to £33.7m (37.6% up on H1-2021: £24.5m, 10.2% up on H2-2021: £30.6m), reported PBT of £4.3m (up 118% on H1-2021: £1.9m, up 23.1% on H2-2021 £3.5m), adjusted PBT(1) of £4.6m (up 109% on H1-2021: £2.2m, up 22.4% on H2-2021 £3.8m) and cash generated from operations of £4.2m up 27.2% (H1-2021: £3.3m, H2-2021: £3.3m).

Throughout the period, the business has continued to perform extremely well.  The ongoing Covid-19 restrictions have had no detrimental effect on the operational efficiency of the model; a model which was described at the Lawyer Awards 2020 as being "vindicated in spades" and "light years ahead" and this has been demonstrated in the financial results.

Activity levels across all practice areas have been very high throughout the period as the economy has opened up and, to some small degree, changes to stamp duty and the rumoured changes to the capital gains tax regime have driven demand across the legal industry. Furthermore, the Covid-19 restrictions on movement have reduced the normal seasonal downturns often experienced around Easter and the early summer months. The total number of Principals(2) has grown to 386, with 21 joining in the period (H1- 2021: 27).  The increased activity has also driven continued growth in the demand for junior support, delivered both through the Pods(2) and the Central office lawyers. As a result, we have had 16 new Pod members join taking the total number of Pod members to 83 (31 January 2021: 74) across 48 Pods (31 January 2021: 44), whilst the number of central office lawyers has increased by 1 to 10.  All of which means that we now have a total of 479 fee earners (31 January 2021: 452).

The conditions in the recruitment market during the period have been more akin to those experienced in H2-2021 than during H1-2021 as the ongoing disruption and uncertainty caused by Covid-19 restrictions, now combined with the generally robust levels of activity across the legal industry, encouraged high quality candidates to remain where they are rather than seek new opportunities.  Accordingly, qualified new candidate applications in the period were 136 compared to 145 during the same period last year and 108 during H2-2021. We extended offers to 36 candidates (H1-2021 53, H2-2021 28) and 28 candidates accepted offers in the period (H1-2021 41, H2-2021 29). 

The central office team have continued to rise to the challenge of delivering the broad and varied array of social and networking opportunities, albeit that these have had to be online rather than in person, which form such an important part of maintaining the cohesive Keystone culture. These events are an essential means by which both new and existing lawyers develop and maintain the internal networks and relationships which underpin the collegiate spirit of Keystone.  It is this networked collegiate approach which so successfully delivers multi lawyer and cross disciplinary solutions to our clients.

Dividend

I am pleased to announce that the Board has declared an interim dividend of 4.5p per share in line with our stated dividend policy. The dividend will be payable on 15 October 2021 to shareholders on the register on 24 September 2021 and the shares will go ex-dividend on 23 September 2021.

Summary and Outlook

In summary, I am extremely pleased with the financial performance of the period.  The activity levels across the business have driven strong revenue and slightly enhanced gross profit margins as the utilisation of the central office lawyers has recovered following a slowdown last year. This, together with some cost savings resulting from Covid-19 restrictions, has generated a highly profitable set of results.

The prolonged period of uncertainty which the Covid-19 restrictions have caused, combined with the expectation that these restrictions would soon be ending has undoubtedly dampened the appetite of some high quality candidates to seek new opportunities for the moment and in light of these conditions I am satisfied with the growth in the lawyer base that we have achieved.

Looking ahead, activity remains buoyant and I am confident that the relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions and more significantly, the return to office which will generally affect potential candidates during the second half of this year will serve to provide further impetus to the legal recruitment market and we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that this will present.  As such, I am confident that we will deliver another good performance during the rest of this year which will be materially ahead of current market expectations.

 

James Knight

Chief Executive Officer

15 September 2021

 

 

(1)         Adjusted PBT is calculated utilising profit before tax and adding back amortisation and share based payments for all periods.

(2)         The terms Principal and Pod were defined on page 7 of the annual report and accounts for year ended 31 January 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

For the period ended 31 July 2021

 

Note

6 Months to

July 2021

(Unaudited)

£

6 Months to

July 2020

(Unaudited)

£

Revenue

 

33,672,472

24,468,027

Cost of sales

 

(24,751,915)

(18,159,798)

Gross profit

 

8,920,557

6,308,229

Depreciation and amortisation

2

(438,436)

(435,879)

Share-based payments

 

(169,175)

(80,831)

Administrative expenses

2

(4,014,381)

(3,831,021)

Other operating income

 

-

11,285

Operating profit

 

4,298,565

1,971,783

Finance income

 

3,196

36,051

Finance costs

 

(47,729)

(59,357)

Profit before tax

 

4,254,032

1,948,477

Corporation tax expense

 

(864,970)

(388,156)

Profit and total comprehensive income for the year attributable to equity holders of the Parent

 

3,389,062

1,560,321

Basic EPS (p)

1

10.8

5.0

 

The above results were derived from continuing operations.

 

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL POSITION

As at 31 July 2021

 

Note

31 July 2021

(Unaudited)

£

31 July 2020

(Unaudited)

£

31 January
2021

(Audited)

£

Assets

 

 

 

 

Non-current assets

 

 

 

 

Property, plant and equipment

 

 

 

 

- Owned assets

 

273,337

356,589

323,940

- Right of use assets

 

1,129,867

1,493,082

1,335,297

Total property, plant and equipment

 

1,403,204

1,849,671

1,659,237

Intangible assets

 

5,933,164

6,284,047

6,108,606

Other assets

 

13,628

13,628

13,628

 

 

7,349,996

8,147,346

7,781,471

Current assets

 

 

 

 

Trade and other receivables

3

19,024,724

15,285,987

18,108,298

Cash and cash equivalents

 

7,243,438

6,878,613

7,371,300

 

 

26,268,162

22,164,600

25,479,598

Total assets

 

33,618,158

30,311,946

33,261,069

Equity and liabilities

 

 

 

 

Equity

 

 

 

 

Share capital

 

62,548

62,548

62,548

Share premium

 

9,920,760

9,920,760

9,920,760

Share-based payments reserve

 

549,337

252,322

380,162

Retained earnings

 

6,297,120

5,518,455

6,223,096

Equity attributable to equity holders of the Parent

 

16,829,765

15,754,085

16,586,566

Non-current liabilities

 

 

 

 

Lease liabilities

 

794,298

1,189,875

1,015,924

Deferred tax liabilities

 

231,732

301,910

266,821

 

 

1,026,030

1,491,785

1,282,745

Current liabilities

 

 

 

 

Trade and other payables

 

14,228,636

12,022,773

14,032,341

Lease liabilities

 

538,544

538,544

538,544

Corporation tax liability

 

874,485

422,918

719,445

Provisions

 

120,698

81,841

101,428

 

 

15,762,363

13,066,076

15,391,758

Total liabilities

 

16,788,393

14,557,861

16,674,503

Total equity and liabilities

 

33,618,158

30,311,946

33,261,069

 

The interim statements were approved and authorised for issue by the Board of Directors on 15 September 2021 and were signed on its behalf by:

A Miller

Director
 

consolidated statement OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

For the period ended 31 July 2021

 

 

Attributable to equity holders of the Parent

Share

capital

£

Share

premium

£

Share-based payment reserve

£

Retained earnings

£

Total

£

At 1 February 2020 (audited)

62,548

9,920,760

171,491

3,958,134

14,112,933

Profit for the period and total comprehensive income

-

-

-

1,560,321

1,560,321

Share-based payments

-

-

80,831

-

80,831

Dividend paid

-

-

-

-

-

At 31 July 2020 (unaudited)

62,548

9,920,760

252,322

5,518,455

15,754,085

Profit for the period and total comprehensive income

-

-

-

2,768,720

2,768,720

Share-based payments

-

-

127,840

-

127,840

Dividend paid

-

-

-

(2,064,079)

(2,064,079)

At 31 January 2021 (audited)

62,548

9,920,760

380,162

6,223,096

16,586,566

Profit for the period and total comprehensive income

-

-

-

3,389,062

3,389,062

Share-based payments

-

-

169,175

-

169,175

Dividend paid

-

-

-

(3,315,038)

(3,315,038)

At 31 July 2021 (unaudited)

62,548

9,920,750

549,337

6,297,120

16,829,765

 

 

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF CASH FLOWS

For the period ended 31 July 2021

 

 

Note

6 Months to July 2021 (Unaudited)

£

6 Months to July 2020 (Unaudited)

£

Cash flows from operating activities

 

 

Profit before tax

 

4,254,032

1,948,477

Adjustments to cash flows from non-cash items

 

 

Depreciation and amortisation

2

438,436

435,879

Share-based payments

 

169,175

80,831

Finance income

 

(3,196)

(36,051)

Finance costs

 

47,729

59,357

 

 

4,906,176

2,488,493

Working capital adjustments

 

 

 

(Increase)/Decrease in trade and other receivables

(916,426)

1,275,452

Increase/(Decrease) in trade and other payables

196,295

(477,545)

Increase/(Decrease) in provisions

 

19,270

19,374

Cash generated from operations

 

4,205,315

3,305,774

Interest paid

 

(83)

(11,710)

Interest portion of lease liability

 

(47,646)

(47,647)

Corporation taxes paid

 

(745,019)

(542,219)

Cash generated from operating activities

3,412,567

2,704,198

Cash flows from/(used in) investing activities

 

 

Interest received

 

3,196

36,051

Purchases of property plant and equipment

(6,963)

(26,597)

Net cash (used in)/generated from investing activities

(3,767)

9,454

Cash flows from financing activities

 

 

 

Repayment of lease liabilities

 

(221,624)

(221,624)

Dividend paid

 

(3,315,038)

-

Net cash (used in) financing activities

(3,536,662)

(221,624)

Net increase/(decrease) in cash and cash equivalents

 

(127,862)

2,492,028

Cash at 1 February

 

7,371,300

4,386,586

Cash at 31 July

 

7,243,438

6,878,613

 

 

 

 

NOTES TO THE interim report

1. General Information

The Company was incorporated as Keystone Law Group Limited on 13 May 2014 under the Companies Act 2006 (registration no. 09039092) and subsequently used as the vehicle to acquire Keystone Law Limited (the main trading company in the Group) and its subsidiaries on 17 October 2014. The Company was re-registered as a Public Limited Company on 10 November 2017. The Company was incorporated and is domiciled in England and Wales. The principal activity of the Group is the provision of legal services. The address of its registered office is:

48 Chancery Lane

London

WC2A 1JF

The Interim Report is presented in Pounds Sterling, being the functional currency of the Group.

Accounting Policies

Statement of Compliance

The Interim Report has been prepared in accordance with the recognition and measurement principles of UK adopted International Accounting Standards.

Basis of Preparation

The Interim Report does not constitute statutory accounts as defined in Section 434 of the Companies Act 2006. The Group's statutory financial statements for the year ended 31 January 2021, have been filed with the Registrar of Companies. The auditor's report on those financial statements was unqualified and did not contain a statement under Section 498 (2) or (3) of the Companies Act 2006. The Interim Report has been prepared in accordance with the recognition and measurement principles of UK adopted International Accounting Standards and on the same basis and using the same accounting policies as used in the financial statements for the year ended 31 January 2021.

The Interim Report has not been audited or reviewed in accordance with the International Standard on Review Engagement (UK) 2410 issued by the Financial Reporting Council.

Going Concern

The Interim Report has been prepared on a going concern basis as the Directors have reasonable expectation that the Group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. The Group has no debt, is strongly cash generative, and has a strong trading performance. The Group's forecasts and projections show that the Group has sufficient resources for both current and anticipated cash requirements.

Accounting Developments

There have been no new standards or interpretations, relevant to the Group's operations applied in the Interim Report for the first time.

Adjusted PBT

Adjusted PBT is utilised as a key performance indication for the Group and is calculated as follows:

 

6 months to July 2021

(Unaudited)

£'000

6 months to July 2020

(Unaudited)

£'000

Profit before tax

4,254

1,948

Amortisation

175

175

Share-based payments

169

81

Adjusted PBT

4,598

2,204

Earnings per Share

Basic earnings per share is calculated by dividing the profit for the period by the weighted average number of ordinary shares outstanding during the period. The weighted average number of shares in the period was 31,273,941 (H1-2021: 31,273,941) and the basic earnings per share was 10.8p (H1-2021:5.0p). Diluted earnings per share is calculated by dividing the same profit by the weighted average number of ordinary shares, taking into account the dilution effect from grants made under the Long Term Incentive Plan (31,597,083 (H1-2021: 31,435,134)). Diluted earnings per share was 10.7p (H1-2021: 5.0p).

The adjusted earnings per share was 11.9p (H1-2021: 5.8 p), whilst the diluted adjusted earnings per share was 11.8p (H1-2021: 5.8p). Adjusted earnings are stated by making the same adjustments to earnings as those made in calculating adjusted PBT.

 

 

 

 

2. Expenses by Nature

 

Expenses are comprised of:

6 months to July 2021

(Unaudited)

£

6 months to July 2020

 (Unaudited)

£

Depreciation - right of use assets

205,430

205,430

Depreciation - other

57,564

55,007

Amortisation

175,442

175,442

Staff costs

2,091,302

1,917,512

Share-based payments

169,175

80,831

Other administrative expenses

2,206,166

2,172,914

 

4,905,079

4,607,136

Included within staff costs above are the costs of employed fee earners who are included within cost of sale (H1-2022: £283,087; H1-2021: £259,405).

 

3. Trade and Other Receivables

 

 

31 July

2021 (Unaudited)

£

31 July

2020

(Unaudited)

£

31 January

2021

(Audited)

£

Trade receivables

12,179,168

9,543,586

10,381,433

Provision for impairment of trade receivables

(3,952,255)

(2,875,072)

(2,976,731)

Net trade receivables

8,226,913

6,668,513

7,404,702

Receivables from related parties

-

10,360

-

Accrued income

7,923,182

6,013,730

7,519,042

Prepayments

1,167,187

755,114

1,592,149

Other receivables

1,707,442

1,838,270

1,592,405

Total current trade and other receivables

19,024,724

15,285,987

18,108,298

Net trade receivables average age (days)

34

30

38

 

4. DIVIDENDS

The directors have declared an interim dividend of 4.5 pence per share (H1-2021: two ordinary interim dividends were declared, each being for 3.3 pence per share, one of these was a catch up element of dividends not declared for the year ended 31 January 2020). The dividend will be paid on 15 October 2021 to shareholders on the register on 24 September 2021 with the shares going ex-dividend on 23 September 2021. In accordance with IAS10 "Events after the Balance Sheet Date" these dividends have not been reflected in the Interim Report.

 

Keystone Law

48 Chancery Lane
London
WC2A 1JF

www.keystonelaw.co.uk

 

 

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