Sherry FitzGerald returns to profit

Sherry FitzGerald returns to profit

Sherry FitzGerald estate agents returned to profitability in 2010 following a strong performance by its UK division and a restructuring of its Irish business.

The latest accounts for Sherry FitzGerald Holdings show it made an operating profit of €3.2 million in 2010 compared with a loss of €3.9 million in the previous year. Turnover rose by 22 per cent to €43.2 million last year.

The company said its UK business, Marsh Parsons, performed “extremely well” in London. Sherry FitzGerald recently sold its 72 per cent stake in Marsh Parsons to LSL Property Services for €44 million. The deal closed on Thursday.

Sherry FitzGerald made interest payments of €687,000 last year to give it a pretax profit of €2.5 million. The company had posted a pretax loss of €5 million in 2009. It had accumulated losses of €8.2 million at the end of 2010.

Commenting on the results, Mark FitzGerald, the head of Sherry FitzGerald, said: “Everyone in our organisation has worked incredibly hard to maintain the core of the business through this difficult last few years to ensure that it remains attractive to retail and commercial customers alike and that it operates efficiently.”

Mr FitzGerald said he believed strongly in Ireland’s ability to “repair itself”. He said Marsh Parsons had “ambitious plans for growth that require investment.”

Sherry FitzGerald was not in a position to commit to this while also redeveloping its Irish business, he added.

The funds from the Marsh Parsons sale will be used to clear debt in the Irish business.

Sherry FitzGerald reduced its net debt last year by €4.6 million to €12.4 million. It had net debt of €24.6 million at the end of 2007. Its bank debt stood at €17.1 million at the end of 2010.

Commenting on current trading, Mr FitzGerald said: “The environment in Ireland is still very difficult and we can make no assumptions.

“While we believe that there will be a range of opportunities, there are also many challenges for the market generally and for a business like ours. Despite the tough times, we have maintained a commitment to keeping a strong team.”

The number of staff at Sherry FitzGerald rose by 30 last year to 377, with employee costs rising by 16.4 per cent to €26.3 million.

Directors’ fees were flat at €2.3 million.

The sale of its interest in Marsh & Parsons to LSL Property has seen the company pull out of the UK market.

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