Countrywide reports conveyancing services growth

Conveyancing Services have continued to grow for the first half of this year, according to a new report by the UK’s leading property services group.

Both income and EBITDA results were 11 per cent higher than the first six months to June in 2013 for Countrywide, UK’s largest estate agency and lettings network, with a good start to the year that capitalised on the healthy pipelines brought forward from 2013.

Instruction volumes were particularly strong in the first quarter of the year, leading to pipelines at the half year that were 34 per cent above 2013.

However, while Countrywide’s division completes transactions approximately two weeks faster than the industry average, a lengthening of turnaround times in the overall market was a challenge in the first half of the year.

Excluding investments in legal capacity and a new acquisition of an office in Bridgend, underlying EBITDA was £4.4million, a 16 per cent increase on 2013. Lambert Smith Hampton delivered strong performance in the first half of the year, with an income of £33.7million, eight per cent higher than in 2013 and achieved EBITDA of £3.2million.

During this period Lambert Smith Hampton also completed its first acquisition, taking on BTW Shiells, the largest property consulting business in Northern Ireland.

This acquisition is expected to increase revenue by 10 per cent and strengthen their advisory service on various non-performing loan portfolios.

Lambert Smith Hampton expect this to lead to multiple downstream fees Countrywide’s cash at the end of June was £43.5million, an increase of £7.2million from  December last year, which was driven by increased inflows from operating activities.

In February 2014 the business increased its term loan facility to £100 million and the RCF to £50million, while at the same time having negotiated a reduced margin and repayment schedule so that the loan amortises over three annual instalments from March 2015: £20million, £25million and £55million.

The business continued to monitor the progress of its professional indemnity claims and paid £9.3million in settlements in the first half of this year, as anticipated.

A key focus for expansion within the Group is the growth of the Lettings business, building and underpinning recurring income streams, and to this end, the Group has completed the acquisition of 16 lettings businesses during the six month period ended June 30 2014 for a total of £25million.

The London and Premier division has also acquired five businesses and Lambert Smith Hampton and Conveyancing Services have each acquired a business during the period.

The Group reports a healthy pipeline of additional opportunities identified for the second half of the year.

At 30 June 2014, the Group had net assets of £545.6million, up from £521.2millon on December 31 last year, and net debt of £74.1 million, up from £48.4 million at the end of last year.

This leaves it with a net debt/equity ratio of 13.6 per cent, compared to their last ratio of 9.3 per cent at the end of December 2013.

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