ASX-listed IPH Ltd said it has acquired New Zealand intellectual property law firm AJ Park for $66 million.
IPH, which describes itself as Asia-Pacific's leading intellectual property group, expects the deal to be completed by October 31. AJ Park employs 205 people with offices in Auckland, Wellington and Sydney, including 30 per cent of New Zealand's registered patent attorneys, and was established in 1891. The Kiwi law firm's client list spans a third of Fortune 500 companies and more than half of New Zealand's top 200 companies.
AJ Park will be the first New Zealand IP firm to join a publicly listed IP group, as a result of legislation which took effect from February 2017, which removed restrictions on ownership structures for patent attorney firms.
The deal comes as foreign ownership was discussed in the current negotiations between NZ First and the National and Labour parties to form the next government. NZ First has been a strong proponent in seeking to limit the level of foreign ownership in New Zealand.
The $66m price tag, adjusted for net debt and working capital, represents 7.5 times AJ Park's normalised earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) in the 2017 financial year, IPH said. It will be settled 60 per cent in cash and the remainder in new IPH shares, with those shares to be escrowed for two years and the cash to be funded by USD denominated debt.
"We are confident that significant benefits will flow from being part of the IPH Group," AJ Park managing partner Damian Broadley said. "Importantly, we will continue to operate under the same name, with the same high-quality people, but will gain access to investment, technologies and networks that will enhance the way we deliver services to our clients."
IPH managing director David Griffith said the deal "represents a further step in IPH's strategy to expand its presence in secondary IP markets and, most importantly, supports IPH's growth in Asia through extension of our Asian service offering to AJ Park's local and international clients."
The acquisition still hinges on completion of restructuring and contractual arrangements, consent from third parties and no material adverse changes, IPH said. Its shares last traded at A$4.96 on the ASX, and are down 3.1 per cent this year.