16 Oct 2013
Speed Medical Buys Medical Legal Appointments
On June 12 Speed Medical purchased Liverpool based Medical Legal Appointments. Speed’s Managing Director Graham Pulford explains why the purchase was a good fit.
Q Tell us a bit more about MLA.
MLA was established over two decades ago as an in-house agency providing medical evidence for a leading Liverpool law firm. It was subsequently bought out by its management team and went on to forge a highly regarded reputation for pragmatism and authority in the field of industrial disease claims - like asbestosis, vibration white finger and dermatological injuries. It has also become the market leading agency where noise induced hearing loss is concerned. The firm has always been a pioneer in terms of its day-to-day operation, for example, offering market-ready rates prior to the fixed-fee revolution of the MRO Agreement in 2007.
Q What were the driving factors behind Speed’s first corporate acquisition?
Speed is already the UK’s largest independent provider of medical reports, rehabilitation and ancillary services used in the resolution of personal injury claims throughout the UK. We’ve always been ambitious. In the decade since I joined Speed I’ve overseen a fivefold increase in the size of the business. MLA specialises in industrial disease related claims so the purchase was a perfect fit with our longer-term growth and diversification plans. The sad reality is that millions of employees are exposed to risks to their health that can ruin their quality of life, sometimes leaving them unable to work. Take a look at the figures. It’s estimated that: Some 17,000 suffer deafness or hearing problems caused by excessive noise at work. More than 1,000 people a year are diagnosed with Vibration White Finger. 4,500 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases.
Q The economic recovery is still fragile and the industry’s been rocked by a series of reforms and bad publicity. Is this really the right time to expand?
You’re right. The current climate is dynamic and some consolidation among medical agencies is inevitable, but that’s not what motivated us. We believe it’s a progressive move which demonstrates both our strength and ambition. Nor is it a decision we made in haste. Our board spent almost a year reviewing the marketplace, assessing potential targets and drawing up a shortlist of complementary suppliers to approach. Negotiations with MLA’s founder and chief executive, David Edmondson, began in earnest in January. After a period of due diligence, we were able to buy MLA by funding the purchase from our working capital.
Q Mergers and acquisitions are a notoriously tricky business with culture clashes and integration costs. What made you confident about MLA?
It’s a great fit. Once we started talking in the New Year both myself and David quickly realised the potential of a deal. The MLA team is as passionate as we are about delivering quality, value and innovation into a dynamic legal marketplace. The companies share a common culture – we’re both motivated by a desire to provide unrivalled service to our customers and their clients. That meant operational integration has been a relatively seamless process and means we’ve been able to extend our respective offers and increase our breadth of service and depth of expertise almost overnight.
Q What does this deal mean for Speed’s future?
Before we bought MLA, work on industrial disease cases accounted for around 5% of Speed’s business. Our turnover was just under £40m and we produced 90,000 medical reports a year. The deal means that industrial disease cases will now represent 15% of our caseload. We project that turnover will increase this year with the newly joined businesses set to produce around 100,000 medical reports annually. In practical terms there will be no re-branding and all of the directors and management will be staying with MLA, continuing to work out of their existing offices in Liverpool. We’re confident that by merging and boosting our knowledge, contacts and resources, we’ll be able to deliver the scope, performance and efficiency this fast changing industry demands in a way that no other medical agency can match. That’s what makes this move such a tremendously exciting development for both organisations’ customers and staff.