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Property agent overcomes poll caution

Savills rebounds from referendum slowdown to report record year

Edinburgh Property agent Savills has overcome caution among investors in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum by announcing that last year was its best ever.

Commercial Director Mark Fleming said performance in the Scottish region tracked that of the firm’s wider global business as a whole and resulted in the firm hiring staff across its sectors and opening an office in Aberdeen.

“We are delighted that, thanks to our loyal clients, it’s been our best year to date. This success is despite the pause in the transactional market during the recent referendum and we expect the momentum that built post the result to continue in 2015,” he said.

Rural Director Charles Dudgeon added:  “Savills’ success north of the Border has allowed for expansion in staff numbers across all property sectors including commercial, residential, development and rural.  Growth has also included the opening of a brand new multi-discipline office in Aberdeen, as we strive to offer a best in class service across our range of disciplines and increase market share across Scotland.”

The group announced that profit before tax was up 21% to £84.7m (2013: £70.1m) on a 19% increase in revenue which burst through £1 billion to £1.08bn (2013: £904.8m).

A final dividend of 7.25p (2013: 7p) is recommended, making a total of 11p for the year (2013: 10.5p). In addition, a supplemental interim dividend of 12p (2013: 8.5p) is declared, based upon the underlying performance of the company’s transaction advisory business. Taken together, the total payout for the year is 23p per share, an increase of 21% on the 2013 aggregate dividend of 19p.

Commenting on the results, Jeremy Helsby, Group Chief Executive, said: “This was a strong year for Savills with revenues surpassing £1bn, a record for our group, as we benefited from the diversity of revenue streams we have across the globe.

“Our acquisition of Studley has performed strongly and has transformed our US capability, providing a significant platform to grow our operations under the new ‘Savills Studley’ brand. In Asia, the expected lower transaction volumes in Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore were more than offset by strong performances across other regions. We achieved record revenues in the UK and our European operations also returned to profitability.

“We have made a solid start to 2015 with performance in line with management expectations. We retain a cautious view on the timing of the recovery in the Hong Kong commercial market and expect the UK residential market to remain subdued as a result of uncertainty around the General Election.

“We expect that these factors will lead to a greater than usual weighting of our performance towards the second half of the year. However, the strength of our enhanced US operation, the scope of our UK business and the breadth of our Asia Pacific coverage together with further improvement in Continental Europe, all position Savills well for the future.”

The company also announced that it had acquired Frankfurt-based SEB Asset Management, a prominent investment management firm in Germany, for up to €21.5m (£15.6m) in cash. The business will be combined with Cordea Savills, the existing investment management operation. Following the transaction, the combined business will be re-branded Savills Investment Management.

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