Regus storms back into the black with profits of £39m

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The Independent Online

Mark Dixon, the hot dog salesman turned property entrepreneur, was celebrating yesterday after reporting a dramatic turnaround at his Regus office business.

The once struggling company surged back into the black in 2005, with profits of almost £39m. A year earlier it made a loss of £4.9m as it continued to shake off the fallout from the end of the internet boom.

Regus specialises in providing fully functioning office space with secretarial support to small businesses. It expanded rapidly during dot.com mania but was plunged into near disaster as many of its clients went bust.

After a huge restructuring it now boasts customers such as Nokia, Google and ABN Amro.

The company's US business accounts for more than half of total revenues, which rose 48 per cent last year to £463m.

Mr Dixon, who started his business career running a hot dog van on the North Circular road in London, believes his company has fully turned the corner.

"We got into severe difficulties and had to restructure. The business we have today is a lot stronger. We have customers committed for a much longer period of time and have got a lot more flexibility into our leases," he said.

Mr Dixon opened his first Regus office in Brussels in 1989, merging with Sweden's Reinhold City in 1990. Regus now operates in 60 countries and 350 cities.

As an example of how much it charges, a single businessman working from home who wants secretarial support and a place to hold meetings could expect to pay about £150 a month.

Mr Dixon believes the biggest factor holding back further growth is ignorance. "We don't really compete with anyone. Most people don't know about us," he said.

His personal fortune was once estimated at more than £1bn as Regus boomed. He still holds 34 per cent of the company, making his stake worth about £350m. Last year he sold £30m of shares to pay for a divorce from his wife, Trudy, in one of the largest settlements in UK history. He now lives in Dallas.

Stephen Gleadle, Regus's finance director, bought 121,500 shares yesterday at 114p each. Despite some positive notes from stockbrokers, Regus shares fell 6.25p to 107.25p

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