Burford Capital Ltd. raised $250 million this week by selling new shares on the London Stock Exchange, the publicly traded litigation finance company announced Tuesday.
But a quarter of a billion dollars will not put an end to Burford’s capital cravings. The London-based litigation financier, which had a market cap of $5.4 billion as of Monday, said a debt issue and a private fund raise would follow “shortly.”
The new money, which Burford CEO Christopher Bogart said signals how strong demand is for the company’s financing options, will be used to hire lawyers and business development team members in new markets, such as Australia, Germany and the U.S. cities where Burford does not yet have a physical presence.
“We’re almost getting numb to the fact that just in one day we raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars, and the whole industry wasn’t a quarter of a billion dollars 10 years ago,” Bogart said Tuesday. “Which really is a signal of how far this has come in a relatively short period of time. And obviously we’re only raising this money if we’re pretty confident about our ability to put it to work, which means we have clients out there wanting capital.”
The fast-growing Burford has been investing money at an increasingly fast pace.
The company announced in July that it had invested $540 million in new legal finance commitments during the first six months of the year. That was up 10 percent from the same time period last year and 170 percent more than the same period in 2016.
Burford has also been raising money more frequently since it purchased one of its largest competitors, Chicago-based Gerchen Keller Capital LLC, for $160 million in late 2016. Last year, Burford raised $500 million for a private fund and another £175 million in a bond issue. The broader litigation finance market has raised more than $1.5 billion since the end of 2016.
Bogart said his company will look to hire new members of its investment team—typically former Big Law litigators—in Australia, Germany and in potentially the U.S. states of Florida, Georgia or Texas. Bogart said Burford had hired more than a dozen people in the past three months and would continue to grow its head count at a similar pace.
“The market that interests us the most is the United States,” Bogart said. “Certainly Australia and Germany are places we’re going to be expanding into. We’re doing business there on a fly-in basis. But what this lets us do is continue to expand physically and geographically, so we’ll put someone on the ground in Australia, but it also means we can put more people on the ground in the U.S.”
IMF Bentham Ltd., Burford’s Australia-based competitor, also announced personnel moves on Tuesday. The publicly traded firm’s board of directors will now include Christine Feldmanis, a veteran Australian banking professional who has held executive positions with Bankers Trust, Elders Finance, NSW TCorp and Treasury Group. IMF Bentham also announced that former Sidley Austin partner Peter Ostroff will have a permanent role on its U.S. investment committee.
Most of the shares Burford just issued, which were equivalent to 5 percent of the previously outstanding shares, were purchased by existing institutional investors.
“I think Burford has been performing well for investors, and they were supportive of expanding the equity base a little bit,” said Bogart, a former general counsel at Time Warner Inc. “As a capital structure matter, all this means is it provides us with a little more permanent capital and underpins the ability to take on more debt. We’re keeping a very conservative balance sheet, while expanding it a fair bit.”
Shares of Burford were trading about 8 percent lower as of midday Tuesday in the U.S. Issuing equity often causes stock price dips, since it dilutes the value of outstanding shares.