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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Top agency group “increasingly optimistic” about market despite Covid

The chairman of LSL Property Services - Simon Embley - says he is “increasingly optimistic” about the outlook for the market, despite Coronavirus.

His remarks come after another relatively strong set of figures in LSL’s trading statement this morning.

The company - which includes national chains Reeds Rain and Your Move as well as high-end London agency Marsh & Parsons - saw its revenue fall 25 per cent in the first half of the year, mostly because of the virus lockdown.

However underlying profit for the group, which also includes financial services and surveying as well as sales and lettings agencies, was up by £0.3m to £12.5m. 

Estate agency division underlying profit was up three per cent, buoyed particularly by strong trading in June when the housing market reopened. 

In recent weeks, the statement says, estate agency business has bounced back to a level 41 per cent above this time last year, while the surveying division is seeing a pipeline rise of 150 per cent.

LSL claimed £13.8m through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, “which has been used to meet the salary of employees placed on furlough to secure as many long term jobs as possible” explains the company.

By late July around 2,800 of the 3,300 employees furloughed had returned to work, with more expected later this month.

There were also back office savings as a result of the closure of a company administration centre during the first quarter of the year: five other locations are “under review” according to this morning’s statement, but otherwise all other LSL Group premises have reopened.

The voluntary reduction of one third of salaries and fees by all executive and non-executive directors was introduced in April and was still in place at the end of July, but salaries of other senior managers who agreed a voluntary reduction were reinstated from July 1. 

Group chairman Simon Emblem says: "Current trading conditions are extremely encouraging, with strong front-end metrics in all three divisions. The introduction by the government of a stamp duty holiday for properties up to £500,000 is expected to provide further support to the principal markets in which the group operates."

He continues: "After a strong first quarter, we reacted decisively to the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, managing our operations and cash position to secure the position of the group, even in the event of the lockdown continuing throughout the year. This same agility served us well as restrictions eased, as we rebuilt our capability quickly to trade strongly throughout June.

"As a result, I can report an underlying operating profit slightly ahead of last year, and in so doing I cannot highlight strongly enough the exceptional contribution made by management and staff working in all parts of the group. Their commitment to our customers and to the group has been exemplary and I would again like to express my appreciation.

"Although we remain alert to the risk of more disruption, and will take prompt action should it occur, I am increasingly optimistic about market conditions, and am confident in our ability to compete successfully.  Our focus is increasingly turning to investing for future growth, as well as optimising current performance. We have performed extremely well in 2020, and I am confident about the future prospects of the group."

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