Hambro returns to the black

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The Independent Online
HAMBRO Countrywide, the estate agent and financial services group, returned to financial health in 1993 with a pre-tax profit of pounds 15.8m, against a loss of pounds 1.6m.

Included in the figures is a pounds 12.2m profit on the disposal of a stake in Hambro Legal Protection and a gain on Hambro Countrywide Security.

The company, which is owned 52 per cent by Hambros Bank and 22 per cent by Guardian, is paying a total dividend of 0.75p with a final of 0.25p against a token 0.05p in 1992.

Christopher Sporborg, chairman, said that the housing market had flattened out in the second half of the year after a healthy start but 1994 was showing definite signs of improvement.

'Prices in general have stabilised and in some sectors of the market have increased. Our pipeline of house sales in the hands of solicitors increased by 34 per cent in the first two months of the year.'

Hambro Countrywide sold 47,275 houses in 1993, a gain of 21 per cent, pointing to an increased share of a housing market that grew by 4.5 per cent in 1994. Despite this, estate agency business reported a loss of pounds 2m down from pounds 13.6m.

'We need to sell another 2,000 or 3,000 houses to become profitable in estate agency per se,' said Harry Hill, joint managing director.

Sales of financial products did not rise in line with house sales at the company's 492 branches. Policy sales as a proportion of house sales fell from 46 per cent to 40 per cent.

Hambro Guardian Consultancy, a life company that books the profit on in-house policy sales, remained the mainstay of the group's figures with a profit of pounds 10.7m against pounds 10.8m.

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