It’s going to be our busiest year yet, says firm

City House in Leeds
City House in Leeds
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COMMERCIAL property firm Bruntwood saw pre-tax profits rise by 42 per cent to £16.8m in its last financial year, with chief executive Chris Oglesby predicting that 2014 will be the company’s busiest year ever.

Family-run Bruntwood has more than 110 office buildings across Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham.

It said that its pre-tax profit figure of £16.8m for the year ending September 2013 did not include exceptional items relating to costs incurred as part of its £600m refinancing deal.

Bruntwood said that its “robust” performance reflected an increase in occupancy rates with over half a million square feet of space let in 2013, including 25 per cent of the Manchester city centre office market.

Performance across Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool was also strong, said Bruntwood.

Bruntwood’s net worth fell to £286.4m, down five per cent from 2012.

The company said this was due to the timing of its valuations. It said it believes the difference has already been made up given momentum in the investment market since its September 2013 year end.

Bruntwood said it had a record year of lettings in Birmingham, including the largest deal of the year at Centre City.

In Leeds, the recently redeveloped 100 Wellington Street was fully let in six months, whilst in the Liverpool market Bruntwood secured one of the largest lettings of the year with the expansion of Bosch at The Plaza.

Mr Oglesby said: “Refinancing £600m of debt, secured by property valuations right at the bottom of the cycle, has been a significant achievement that enables us to focus on the future.

“Whilst this recession has been tough, our major regional cities emerge stronger from it and I am more optimistic about their future than I have been at any other time.

“We are very well positioned to capitalise on the strength of these markets; as well as the major projects we have planned, we will continue to strengthen our strategic partnerships and look to develop new relationships, ensuring that after a few years of reduced development activity 2014 will be our busiest year ever.”

The company recorded a turnover of £106.3m, up from £104.6m the year before.

Pre-tax profit after exceptional items was £12.4m, up from £12.3m the year previously.

Exceptional items included £5.4m relating to one-off refinancing costs. There was also an exceptional profit of £1m, said Bruntwood, meaning that the net figure for exceptional items was £4.4m.

In 2010, Bruntwood bought City House, which stands next to Leeds train station, and obtained planning permission to redevelop the 14-storey building, which dates from 1962 and has been empty for some time.

Craig Burrow, director of Bruntwood Leeds, said yesterday: “We continue to work with Network Rail to bring forward the transformation of City House as part of the wider improvements to Leeds Station. It’s an integral part of the overall offering of this gateway to the city and we’re in dialogue with a number of office occupiers to secure a partial pre-let to commence development of the planning approved scheme.”

The company said its aim is to “transform this neglected property into a new high-profile business destination”.

The exterior of the building will be given a new look with a new entrance foyer and mezzanine reception, while the 14 floors of offices will be refurbished.

Over its 2012-2013 financial year, Bruntwood said it invested £14.6m in its existing portfolio on refurbishment projects which helped to attract and retain customers.

Occupancy has also increased at Manchester Science Park (MSP) to over 90 per cent, said Bruntwood, since it acquired a controlling stake in 2012.

The group’s entire debt, which at year end stood at £587m, was refinanced, including a five-year £221m medium term facility with HSBC, RBS, Barclays and Santander and a £120m ten-year facility with Legal and Gen- eral.

The company also diversified its funding base with a seven year £50m retail bond, leaving the business “in a strong position to focus on growth”.

Bruntwood specialises in providing bespoke office space from one desk for a day through to a whole building for 25 years.

The company also provides space for serviced offices, retail space, virtual offices and ‘Red Rooms’ meeting rooms to hire.