Savills plc (LON:SVS), the international real estate advisor, has today announced growth in both revenue and underlying profits in 2018.
Key financial highlights
– Group revenue up 10% to £1.76bn (2017: £1.6bn)
– Underlying profit* up 2% to £143.7m (2017: £140.5m)
– Statutory profit before tax decreased 3% to £109.4m (2017: £112.4m)
– Underlying basic earnings per share (‘EPS’) grew 3% to 77.8p (2017: 75.8p)
– Statutory basic EPS decreased 4% to 56.2p (2017: 58.8p)
– Final ordinary and supplementary interim dividends total 26.4p per share (2017: 25.55p) taking the total dividend for the year up 3% to 31.2p per share (2017: 30.2p)
* Underlying profit before tax (‘underlying profit’) is calculated on a consistently reported basis in accordance with Note 4 to this Preliminary Statement.
Key operating highlights
The diversity of the Group, both geographically and in our service offering, and the integration of recent acquisitions delivered growth in both revenue and underlying profits in 2018.
· Transaction Advisory revenues up 9%. Further growth from our less-transactional services with Property and Facilities Management revenue up 14% and Consultancy revenue up 8%.
· Strong growth from Europe & the Middle East, both organic and through the integration of Aguirre Newman in Spain and the acquisition of Cluttons Middle East in May 2018.
· North America delivered significant growth in the occupier-focused business with revenue up 18% and underlying profit up 64%.
· Savills Investment Management successfully mitigated the expected significant decline in activity relating to disposals from liquidating the SEB Open-Ended Funds, raising £2.4bn in new funds, with AUM up 12% to £16.4bn.
Commenting on the results, Mark Ridley, Savills plc Group Chief Executive, said:
“Savills delivered both revenue and underlying profit growth in 2018, driven by a robust second half of the year. In addition to maintaining or growing our share of transactional markets, the performance of our less transactional business lines was key to this performance.
We have made a solid start to 2019; however, the year ahead is overshadowed by macro-economic and political uncertainties across the world. It is difficult accurately to predict the impact of these issues on corporate expansionary activity and investor demand for real estate. At this stage, we expect to see declines in transaction volumes in a number of markets and growth in our less transactional business lines; accordingly we retain our expectations for the Group’s performance in 2019.”
Savills delivered a resilient performance in the face of some challenging market conditions, reflecting our geographic diversity, breadth of operations and recent business investment activity.
The Group’s revenue improved by 10% to £1.76bn (2017: £1.6bn) and underlying profit for the year increased by 2% to £143.7m (2017: £140.5m). The Group’s statutory profit before tax decreased by 3% to £109.4m (2017: £112.4m).
As a result of a robust second half of the year, Savills delivered both revenue and underlying profit growth in 2018. In addition to maintaining or growing our share of transactional markets, the performance of our less transactional business lines was key to this performance. This was achieved against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty as Brexit, US trade policy and higher long term treasury yields, particularly in the benchmark US 10 year Treasury Bond, began to have a discernible impact on investor sentiment in a number of our key markets. Currency movements had a negative impact on the Group, decreasing revenue by £20.7m, underlying profit by £1.3m and statutory profit before tax by £0.5m.
Our Transaction Advisory revenue grew by 9%, our Consultancy business revenue by 8% and our Property Management revenue by 14%. The UK delivered a resilient performance in the Commercial Transaction businesses in an environment of relatively robust occupier demand and continued strong investment interest, particularly from the Asia Pacific region, albeit in a softer market in terms of volume traded compared with 2017. Our Residential business continued to perform well in challenging conditions. Our Asia Pacific and Europe & Middle Eastern transactional businesses performed as anticipated, with particularly strong results from Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Ireland and Germany. In addition we benefited from an encouraging maiden year performance from Savills Aguirre Newman in Spain. In the US, we delivered significant growth in the Occupier Service business (including tenant representation brokerage). This led to an improved US performance overall for the year, even after the continued costs of investment in the business, including significant investment in our central office platform and the net costs of the capital markets team in New York. Finally, Savills Investment Management successfully mitigated the expected significant decline in activity relating to disposals from liquidating the SEB German Open-Ended Funds. The business launched a number of new products, raising significant new capital, increasing its Assets Under Management (‘AUM’) to £16.4bn (2017: £14.6bn) and achieving a result in line with our expectations for the year.
The reduction in transaction fees in the Investment Management business and growth in our lower margin but stable Property Management business, together with our investment activities in a number of markets restricted the underlying profit margin to 8.2% (2017: 8.8%).
In addition to the aforementioned factors impacting the underlying profit margin, higher acquisition-related charges, lower profits on disposal of investments and a one-off charge in relation to the impact of equalising Guaranteed Minimum Pension (‘GMP’) on the UK defined benefit pension plan also affected the statutory pre-tax profit margin during the year, which declined to 6.2% (2017: 7.0%).
Savills strategy is to be a leading advisor in the key markets in which we operate. Our global strategy is delivered locally by our experts on the ground with flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in circumstances and opportunities. They are supported by our regional and cross-border investment and occupier services specialists. Over the last few years we have acquired a number of complementary businesses and added teams and individual hires to our strong core business.
In May 2018, we expanded our platform into a new region through the acquisition of Cluttons Middle East, which is being integrated in to the Europe & Middle East business. In addition, the integration of Aguirre Newman in Spain, acquired in December 2017, continues to proceed as planned alongside the continued investment in our new business in the Czech Republic, which now provides a full service offering to commercial clients.
In the UK, we acquired Broadgate Estates’ third party property management portfolio from British Land and made a number of incremental acquisitions to complement our existing UK business. These acquisitions included a property agency in Guernsey creating Savills first residential presence in this region (Martel Maides), a property services company in East London (Currell), and a planning and development consultancy business based in London (Porta Planning).
In Asia Pacific, we made some significant hires into our valuation teams in Thailand and Singapore. We continued to expand throughout Australia and in China, where we opened 3 new offices and recruited circa 50 professionals to facilitate our continued long term expansion in this market. During the year we commenced a long term commitment to the start-up of Savills India, which opened for business in October with offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore focusing on project management, commercial leasing, occupier services, capital markets brokerage and valuation services.
In North America, we continued to expand our occupier-focused business lines through both recruitment and investment in technology.
Finally, the Savills Investment Management business acquired a 25% interest in DRC Capital LLP (‘DRC’), a leading European manager of real estate debt funds, with the option to purchase the remaining 75% of DRC in 2021; this transaction provided an exciting opportunity to add real estate debt to our portfolio of real estate investment products.
Emerging technology continues to be a focal area in the real estate industry and also for our business. We have continued to invest in our own technology platform in order both to deliver innovative solutions to our clients through data analysis and insight and to drive internal efficiencies. Examples of this include our award winning Knowledge Cubed platform, deployed to our occupier services clients across all regions which has been recognised for its innovation by both the Financial Times and CoreNet (the occupier Services industry body in the US). We continued the roll out of Workthere.com, our advisory service to corporates seeking flexible office or co-working space. With New York going live in January 2019, we have now launched Workthere in eight countries and seen significant uptake from both tenants and the serviced office providers.
In addition, we continue to review and support a number of investment opportunities in the field of emerging technology and our proprietary investment arm, Grosvenor Hill Ventures (‘GHV’), has made further investments in these promising technology opportunities during the year. Our largest investment to date is in YOPA, the digital hybrid residential UK estate agent, which has grown to become the 6th largest UK estate agent. During the year GHV made a small additional investment in YOPA to support this growth and also in VuCity, which is a digital city modelling platform, initially focused on optimising development and planning applications for developers, architects, planners and Local Authorities.
Jeremy Helsby retired as Group Chief Executive at the end of 2018 after a 39 year career at Savills, 11 of them as Group Chief Executive. Under Jeremy’s leadership Savills has become a leading global real estate advisor and successfully both internationalised and diversified the business. On behalf of the Group as a whole, I thank Jeremy for all that he has done for Savills over many years and we are delighted that he continues to consult for us in respect of the development of the US business in 2019.
Mark Ridley succeeded Jeremy as Chief Executive on 1 January 2019, having joined the Board as Deputy Group Chief Executive in May 2018. Mark has been with Savills for 22 years, latterly in the role of CEO UK, Europe and the Middle East. The Board and I very much look forward to working with him through the next phase of the development of the Savills business worldwide.
The Board announced in September 2018 that Charles McVeigh, who has served on the Board since 2000, will retire at the conclusion on the Company’s AGM in May 2019. I thank him for his enormous contribution to the Board over so many years. Liz Hewitt, who has been on the Board since 2014, will also retire at the conclusion of the Company’s AGM in May 2019. I would like to thank Liz for her contribution to the Group and, in particular, in Chairing the Audit Committee.
During the year, we reviewed the composition of the Board. Following this review, Stacey Cartwright and Florence Tondu-Mélique were appointed as additional independent Non-Executive Directors in October 2018. Stacey Cartwright will succeed Liz Hewitt as Chairman of the Audit Committee at the conclusion of the 2019 AGM.
An initial interim dividend of 4.8p per share (2017: 4.65p) amounting to £6.6m was paid on 3 October 2018, and a final ordinary dividend of 10.8p (2017: 10.45p) is recommended, making the ordinary dividend 15.6p for the year (2017: 15.1p). In addition, a supplemental interim dividend of 15.6p (2017: 15.1p) is declared, based upon the underlying performance of our Transaction Advisory business. Taken together, the ordinary and supplemental interim dividends comprise an aggregate distribution for the year of 31.2p per share, representing an increase of 3% on the 2017 aggregate dividend of 30.2p. The final ordinary dividend of 10.8p per ordinary share will, subject to shareholders’ approval at the AGM on 8 May 2019, be paid alongside the supplemental interim dividend of 15.6p per share on 13 May 2019 to shareholders on the register at 12 April 2019.
I would like to express my thanks to all our staff worldwide for their hard work, commitment and continued focus on client service, which enable the Group to deliver these results.
We have made a solid start to 2019 however, the year ahead is overshadowed by macro-economic and political uncertainties across the world. It is difficult accurately to predict the impact of these issues on corporate expansionary activity and investor demand for real estate. At this stage, we expect to see declines in transaction volumes in a number of markets and growth in our less transactional business lines; accordingly we retain our expectations for the Group’s performance in 2019.
Nicholas Ferguson CBE