Troubled law firm Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) suspended its own shares from trade this morning in a move that will make investors increasingly nervous ahead of its half-year results announcement expected on February 29.
Back in March of 2015 Slater & Gordon announced the “transformational” $1.3 billion acquisition of the claims management business of UK company Quindell Plc.
Management weren’t wrong in describing the deal as “transformational”, with Slater & Gordon losing around 90% of its value from top to bottom over the course of 2015 as the company went from market darling to dunce on the back of a string of disastrous developments after the acquisition.
Foremost is the problem that the Quindell deal now looks a monumental blunder, with Slater & Gordon today announcing to expect impairments to the goodwill value of the UK business.
To make matters worse is the fact that the Conservative UK government now intends to wind back much of the ability of legal services operators to claim for fast track road traffic accidents in an attack on what it considers to be the over-the-top ‘no win / no fee’ compensation culture in the UK. Low level fast track road traffic accidents are one of Quindell’s claims management businesses core areas of operation and the proposed reforms could not have come at a worse possible time for Slater & Gordon.
Analysts are likely to be working through lunch when the company does reveal its half-year results on February 29, with much attention focused on cash flows, accounting adjustments, and Slater & Gordon’s perilous debt position post-Quindell acquisition. Expect volatility when the law firm returns to the ASX boards.