Nevertheless, according to chairman Ric Traynor, the group still managed to turn in a “solid performance” on the business recovery side, which is by far the largest component of the group.
In his chairman’s statement, he says that the current market for insolvency is at its lowest level since 2004, which particularly affected the first half of the year.
“However, activity levels improved in the second half (as anticipated), giving improved performance on both the first half and the comparative period in 2016.”
The business also increased its operating margins to 20.3%, compared to 19.8% in 2016.
Traynor adds that the group remains the leading UK corporate appointment taker by volume and is in a good position to take advantage of the market’s cyclicality.
Since the insolvency market hit the doldrums, the group has been pursuing a diversification strategy, and has developed a property services division.
In December 2014 it acquired Eddisons, a nationwide firm of property consultants, and a year later it added Rugby-based business surveyors and valuers Taylors to the division. More recently, in June last year, it bought Pugh & Co, the property auction business. The division now contributes around 30% of revenue and profits.
Despite the direct link between the performance of both sides of the group to the state of the UK insolvency market, Traynor does predict a growth in earnings in the new financial year.
“Activity levels in business recovery have improved in calendar year 2017, with national appointment numbers for the first calendar quarter showing growth in the comparative period in 2016.
“In the event that this increase in activity levels is sustained throughout the year, then we anticipate an increasing earnings in our insolvency related activities.
“However, we expect a typical summer period of lower activity levels and will have a better view in the outlook later in the year.”
The group intends to carry on looking for further opportunities to strengthen the business and Traynor has not ruled out further acquisitions.