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World's biggest litigation funder buys Firstassist for £10m

12 December 2011

Burford Capital, which describes itself as the ‘world’s largest dispute financier’, has today announced the purchase of Firstassist Legal Expenses Insurance, a leading ATE specialist, for £10m. The acquisition is subject to FSA approval.

A spokesman for Firstassist said the combination of the Jackson reforms and the legal aid bill would change the litigation funding landscape.

He said Firstassist anticipated “increasing demand for external funding to support higher-value litigation coupled with renewed demand for ATE protection in the same sector”.

Firstassist was sold by Equistone Partners, formerly Barclays Private Equity.

A spokesman for Burford, which is based in the US, said the company intended to build a “leading UK litigation funding business with unrivalled scale, in a market it finds increasingly attractive in light of the proposed Jackson reforms”.

He said Burford’s investment in US litigation and international arbitration totalled $35m in new commitments over the past three months.

Christopher Bogart, chief executive of the Burford Group, said extending the company’s “footprint” into the UK third-party litigation market had always been a strategic goal.

He went on: “The scale and quality of Firstassist’s litigation insurance offering, combined with its industry-leading management and strong legal network, provide Burford with an exciting platform to build a unique litigation capital and insurance solutions group, which we hope will thrive in the increasingly attractive and growing UK market.”

Peter Smith, managing director of Firstassist Legal Expenses, said he was delighted to be combining “the UK’s leading ATE insurance business with the world’s leading litigation financier”.

He added: “Together, we will build the pre-eminent UK litigation funding business while continuing the historical growth of Firstassist’s ATE insurance business.”

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Financial services & Tax