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Frenkel Topping Group

Frenkel Topping Group plc Strategic Progress Delivers Robust Financial Performance

Frenkel Topping Group plc (LON: FEN), a specialist independent financial advisor and asset manager focused on asset protection for vulnerable clients, announced today its interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2019.

Financial Highlights

 HY 2019HY 2018% change
Revenue£4.1m£3.6m+14%
Recurring revenue£3.2m£2.9m+10%
Gross profit£2.2m£2.1m+5%
Profit from operations1£0.8m£0.4m+100%
Statutory pre-tax profit£596k£282k+111%
Basic EPS0.6p0.32p+88%
Cash from operations2£0.5m£0.5m
Interim dividend0.32p0.32p

1 Profit from operations before share based compensations

2 Cash from operations before corporation tax

Operational Highlights and Outlook

· Assets Under Management of £851m, up 12% (as at 30 June 2018: £759m)

· £44m of new investment mandates in H1, in line with management’s expectations

· Assets on a DFM Mandate of £345m, up 11% (as at 30 June 2018: £312m)

· New business income 30% higher at £0.9m than the comparative period in 2018 (£0.69M)

· Client retention rate remained high at 98%

· All model portfolio strategies achieved positive returns; H1 growth between 4%-12% according to the risk criteria set for the fund

· Current trading is in line with management’s expectations

Paul Richardson, Chairman of Frenkel Topping Group said:


“I am pleased to report an excellent set of results and a period of significant progress. Despite challenging financial markets over the period, we have delivered a 14% increase in revenue, a 111% rise in pre-tax profit and made considerable progress against our strategic commitments. New business income increased by 30% over the comparative period whilst client retention remained high at 98% – reflecting our ability to conservatively manage our clients’ money and generate returns. Our growth has been supported by strategic investments made in developing talent and marketing which has invigorated and strengthened the business for the long term.

“The Company has built a strong platform to generate further growth and current trading is line with management expectations.”

CEO Statement

Overview

I am pleased to report an excellent set of results, building on the progress announced in our 2018 financial accounts. We have made significant progress financially and operationally, underpinned by our strategic investments in the Frenkel Topping Academy, marketing and technology, enabling us to report solid growth across our key performance indicators.

The Group’s revenue increased by 14% to £4.1m (HY 2018: £3.6m), predominantly driven by new business income which at £896k was 30% higher than the comparative period in 2018. Recurring revenue is a healthy 78% of total revenue and our client retention rate remains high at 98%, reflecting positive performances from our portfolios and a focus on excellent customer service.

The Company delivered £44m of new investments mandates, reflecting our strong competitive position and trusted brand. AUM amounted to £851m, an increase of £72m or 9% since the year end. The Group’s assets on a Discretionary Fund Management basis through Ascencia Investment Management (“Ascencia”) were up 11% to £345m (as at 30 June 2018: £312m).

Operating profit before share based compensation was £0.8m, doubling from the £0.4m reported in HY2018, and EBITDA before share based compensation was £905k, up 105%, reflecting the Group’s revenue growth. In the first half of 2019, £383K was invested in marketing and developing talent compared to £449K in the comparable period which included reorganisation costs. Our disciplined cost control has ensured that a larger proportion of the growth in sales flows through to the bottom line, delivering a disproportionate increase in operating profit and profit before tax.

Despite the increase in operating profit and EBITDA, the cash generated from operating activities of £328,000 in the half year was lower than the £474,000 generated in the equivalent period in 2018. This was due to a £373,000 increase in working capital which resulted from the Group’s new business generation.

Progress against our strategy

In 2018, we delivered good results, with solid execution, and outlined three core strategic aims for growing the business. I am pleased to report that the Company is making good progress on these commitments to generate further growth over the long term:

1 To grow organically our core business of independent financial advice for personal injury and clinical negligence awards.

We achieved good organic growth in the period under review and, as highlighted above, this has been supported by the investments we made over the past two years. We are proud of our graduate and apprenticeship programme which was launched to ensure talent is regularly introduced to the business. This has been an excellent investment with newly qualified consultants winning new business, adding to AUM and, importantly, maintaining existing client relationships. Investments in marketing has also been key to driving this excellent set of results.

2. To increase the strength of our Discretionary Fund Management through Ascencia and expand its services to a wider audience.

Despite economic headwinds, all our model portfolios in the investment management business achieved positive returns, each posting growth of between 4% and 12% according to the risk criteria set for the fund. The performance reflects our expertise and the conservative approach we have to take in protecting our clients’ money and generating returns. In June, we appointed Tatton Asset Management Limited as investment manager for Ascencia’s core and passive products as part of our strategy to expand its asset management capabilities. This, together with Wellian Investment Solutions Limited as its portfolio research partner, will enable the Group to further scale the business and offer a broader range of products. In the period under review, we launched the Ascencia Islamic Portfolio, a Sharia Law compliant investment portfolio which was developed to support the needs of our Muslim clients. The Ascencia Islamic Portfolio is essentially multi-asset and consists of a blend of Shariah compliant equity focused exchange traded funds, managed fixed income solutions, together with an element of physically backed gold exposure. The new portfolio complements our existing Socially Responsible Investment Portfolios as there are number of synergies between the two.

3. To grow the business through selective acquisitions to widen our market reach and position Obiter Wealth Management (“Obiter”) as a Challenger Generalist IFA Brand.

Obiter was established in response to demand from the solicitors and clients we work with to widen our expert witness services to include divorce cases, wills and probates and MBOs (Management Buy Outs). We are actively sourcing M&A opportunities which complement Obiter and align themselves with our stated strategy. The Group has considered several businesses over the last six months, but we have a strict acquisition policy and will not make any acquisitions unless they meet our criteria. We continue to have active discussions with firms and, if acquired, they will benefit from the back-office and technical support we have built in Manchester, while allowing us to extend the territories into which our core specialist service is offered.

Ogden Rate

In previous announcements we have commented on the impact of the Ogden Rate (Personal Injury Discount Rate (“PIDR”)) when it was cut to -0.75% from the then long standing 2.5% and the likelihood of an increase in lump sum settlements. We believe that these settlements have and will continue to filter through to larger investments for claimants, particularly given the latest government announcement to increase the rate upwards, but only to -0.25% following a number of consultations. Mark Holt, the Group’s Commercial Director has been heavily involved in the consultation process and comments:

“The incremental increase in the PIDR will not see claimants rush back to settling claims with the inclusion of Periodical Payments, moreover the trend to settle for once and for all lump sums will continue, somewhat unaffected by this latest rate increase”

As previously announced, the change in the Ogden Rate is not predicted to have a significant impact on Frenkel Topping. The Company views the change as an opportunity for potential clients and solicitors to seek its expertise.

Dividend

In June 2019 the Company paid a final dividend in respect of FY18 of £668,000 or 0.97 pence per share. This represents a total dividend for 2018 of 1.29 pence per share (2017: 1.203 pence) to shareholders. The Board has reviewed the dividend and is mindful of the Group’s earnings growth potential and future expansion plans. With this in mind, the Company will maintain an interim dividend of 0.32 pence per share which amounts to £220,492 (2018 Interim Dividend: 0.32 pence and £220,701). The interim dividend will be paid on 26 September 2019 to shareholders on the register at close of business on 13 September 2019 and the shares will trade on an ex-dividend basis from 12 September 2019.

Outlook

We are trading in line with management’s expectations and expect to continue to invest in the business to ensure future growth. The Board is mindful of the broader political and economic uncertainty but remains confident that our strong platform, together with our high client retention rate and ability to generate new business will enable us to deliver growth in the second half of 2019 and beyond. I would like to thank all of our staff for their hard work and steadfast focus on delivering for our clients and creating excellence in everything we do. It is very encouraging to see how hard everyone is working to deliver on our strategic commitments and position Frenkel Topping for success over the longer term.

Richard Fraser, CEO