The Investment Column: Ritblat rides the recovery
Wednesday 05 February 1997
Considering that Colliers Erdman Lewis, acquired in January last year, contributed roughly half the volume and half the profits on the consultancy side in the interim figures, the underlying performance of the original Conrad Ritblat business has been relatively pedestrian.
But fee income is directly linked to the prosperity of the commercial property market as a whole, and chief executive Philip Lewis detects a steady recovery in the prime retail, good-quality office and warehouse and distribution sectors, which is now spreading across the country. .
Staff numbers have been cut by a further 5 per cent and the rationalisation of the group's West End offices is now complete, which places Conrad in a better position than many of its peers in what has been one of the hardest hit sub-sectors of the market during the recent slump.
A rise in the interim dividend of 20 per cent to 1.98p confirms the company's confidence that things are finally improving in commercial property but broker Panmure Gordon left its forecast earnings for the full year unchanged at 19.3p. At 273.5p, up another 4.5p on the day, the shares are still only half their best level three years ago but at close to net asset value it is hard to see much outperformance as long as the profession remains oversupplied and underworked.
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