Burford Capital Limited, the world’s largest litigation financing company, announced on Tuesday that it had raised 90 million pounds—or $150 million—through a first-of-its-kind bond offering on the London Stock Exchange. With the new capital raised in the offering by Burford’s U.K. subsidiary, the company said its war chest of assets under management now exceeds $500 million.
Burford CEO Christopher Bogart told us Tuesday that the offering was initially set for 75 million pounds, but the target was raised because so many investors expressed interest. Even at 90 million pounds, the offering (eight-year bonds paying a fixed rate of 6.5 percent) was oversubscribed. The company intends to invest the funds raised in additional litigation matters.
The offshore law firm Ogier advised Burford on issues under the law of Guernsey, where the litigation funder is incorporated. Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer advised Burford on English law issues. Allen & Overy provided English law advice to the lead manager on the offering, Canaccord Genuity Limited.
Bogart said Burford’s challenge in the bond offering was “going to yet another group of investors and educating them about litigation finance.” While Burford has raised prior rounds of capital from classic equity investors like Fidelity Investments and Invesco Ltd. that buy shares to hold as a part of mutual funds, the bonds were sold to a mix of pension funds and high-net-worth individuals. Bogart said Burford deliberately transformed its corporate structure a couple of years ago to become a specialty finance company much like GE Capital. That allowed Burford to access the public debt markets, something likely off-limits to other litigation financiers structured as investment funds.
Burford announced earlier this month that it invested $62 million in new matters in the first six months of 2014. “We’re not only seeing high volumes of what I’ll call case financing, but we’re seeing people increasingly use our capital for other things,” Bogart said.
Bogart points in particular to Burford’s $15 million loan to U.K. power company Rurelec plc, which won a $41 million arbitration award against the government of Bolivia this year. Rurelec used the proceeds of the loan to fund its daily business rather than just the litigation. Burford was entitled to a contingency fee on top of the 12 percent interest it was receiving for the loan. As we previously reported, the investment netted Burford $11 million in profit.
While Burford and its competitors typically don’t reveal what cases they fund, the market for commercial litigation appears to be growing. A Burford rival, Gerchen Keller Capital, raised its profile earlier this year when it announced that it had boosted its assets under management to over $300 million via a nine-figure capital raise. And some individual investments do become public—most notably Burford’s aborted foray into the multibillion-dollar Ecuadorean toxic tort case against Chevron Corporation.
“Litigation finance has matured as a concept,” said Bogart, pointing out that Burford will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its founding this fall. “The reaction when we talk to people is no longer ‘What the heck is this?’ It’s ‘How can i use this in my practice?’”