Bristol & West seeks takeovers

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The Independent Online
BRISTOL & WEST, Britain's tenth-largest building society, is looking for takeovers after announcing doubled pre-tax profits of pounds 20m in the six months to 30 June, writes Lisa Vaughan.

'We're now on the lookout for someone to take over,' Tony FitzSimons, chief executive, said. 'Our priority is to have someone join us who shares our philosophy of customer relationships, and to increase the density of our retail network from the Severn to the Wash.'

Bristol & West increased sales of products to customers while the housing market was in recession, Mr FitzSimons said. But the society was not optimistic about recovery. 'Though there have been signs of a recovery of activity in the housing market, that has not so far been reflected in any significant movement of house prices, and we expect the pace of recovery to be very gradual rather than dramatic.'

Loan loss provisions against bad debts on mortgage lending climbed to pounds 33m from pounds 30m a year ago, as falling property values exacerbated the effects of arrears and repossessions.

The society reported a 19 per cent fall in the number of cases in arrears, although it would not give figures.

Bristol & West lagged its competitors on restricting costs, which rose to pounds 60m from pounds 57m a year ago. 'Our focus is on building relationships with customers and that costs money. We're not cutting costs just to get up some sort of league table . . . it's not our strategy,' Mr FitzSimons said.