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Aukett seeks merger for stability

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Aukett is looking to merge with 'another major commercial practice' as part of its move for stability following the boardroom disputes at the beginning of the year. The firm - Britain's best-known listed practice - has admitted that it needs a deal to improve its cash flow and financial position.

Speculation is rife that it has set its sites on one of a few major British practices.

The office's new Spanish chair, Jose Luis Ripoll, has moved to quash rumours of a potential deal with London-based RHWL.

However, he confirmed that the office is actively seeking a partner after Aukett's share price fell this month to a recent low of just 2.75p.

The potential deal comes in the aftermath of a shareholder revolt earlier this year that saw four senior members of the company's board replaced by Rippoll himself, Steven Beckers from Belgium and Londonbased former chairman Gerry Deighton (AJ 1.4.04).

Ripoll told the AJ: 'I can confirm the fact that we are looking for a deal but I am unable to say who it is that we are looking at.

We need the extra cash to fund our efforts to bring in the best managers.

'The market is full of rumours about who we might look at for this deal but none of them are true at the moment, ' he said.

Ripoll said that the practice's efforts in finding the right deal was proving to be an 'interesting challenge'.

'It is just like looking for a girlfriend, ' he said. 'Obviously the six-foot blonde is the most attractive option but sometimes you might have to go for the one that is not so good-looking but actually loves you.

'At the moment we are still looking for the six-foot girl who also loves us. And this challenge is not that easy.' Ripoll added that although it was 'almost certain' the practice would complete a merger, there was neither a timescale nor a deadline.

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