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Equistone Partners Europe sells Firstassist Legal Expenses

12 Dec 2011

Final exit from the FirstAssist group of companies
Equistone Partners Europe (‘Equistone’), previously Barclays Private Equity, one of Europe’s leading mid-market private equity firms, today announces the sale of ‘After The Event’ (‘ATE’) insurance provider Firstassist Legal Expenses (‘The Company’), for approximately £28m in total value including an element of deferred consideration to Burford Capital Limited (LSE:BUR), a provider of investment capital and risk solutions for litigation.

Firstassist Legal Expenses Insurance is one of the pre-eminent ATE providers in the UK. ATE insurance is taken out after a dispute has arisen, providing the party pursuing litigation with protection for the risk of paying opponent costs and their own disbursements. Firstassist Legal Expenses focuses on commercial litigation.

The Company began operating in 1999 and currently has 32 employees based in Croydon. Under Equistone’s ownership, Firstassist Legal Expenses has developed a range of innovative ATE products tailored to suit different types of litigation and successfully built a reputation for handling complex cases.

Firstassist Legal Expenses was acquired by Equistone and management in 2003 as part of the larger management buyout of FirstAssist Group from Royal & Sun Alliance. Equistone pursued a strategy to separate the Group into specialist companies and as part of this, Firstassist Legal Expenses was demerged from the Group in February 2011. Its sale to Burford Capital marks the full disposal of Equistone’s 2003 investment and follows the realisation of other companies in the group including:

  • The sale of the Private Medical Insurance division to Standard Life Healthcare in 2006 for £25m.
  • The sale of health and wellbeing services provider FirstAssist Services Holdings to Capita plc for £12.5m in 2010.
  • The sale of white labelled insurance provider FirstAssist Insurance Services to Cigna for £71m in September 2011.

Commenting on the deal, Peter Smith, CEO of Firstassist Legal Expenses said:

“Equistone has been a tremendous support as we have developed our offering in a rapidly evolving market.  Our demerger and re-branding earlier this year has enabled us to focus more effecitvely on our specialised ATE products and take full advantage of the expanding market for ATE insurance in the UK.”

Andrew Backen, Investment Director at Equistone, commented:

“We are pleased to see the final stage in our demerger and realisation plan for the FirstAssist Group come to fruition.  Firstassist Legal Expenses is a high quality team, well placed to capitalise on the opportunities offered as part of an international litigation funding group. Their UK expertise will be an excellent addition to Burford’s existing business.”  This exit was led by Andrew Backen of Equistone, and the original investment was led by Owen Clarke. Completion is subject to standard regulatory clearances.

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