Broking group expecting "double digit growth" in 2009

Brightside Group, the insurance broking and financial services business, has posted profit from continuing operations increased by 182% to £6.2m (2007: £2.2m) in its unaudited preliminary results for the 12 months ended 31 December 2008.

Revenue increased by 42% to £33.2m (2007: £23.3m) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) before exceptional items and share option charges increased by 74% to £7.5m (2007: £4.3m).

The group said its insurance broking customer base increased from 131,254 in 2007 to 149,381 in 2008.

In a statement, Brightside Group chief executive Paul Chase-Gardener said: "The business has shown itself to be resilient in the face of a difficult economic climate and has benefited from the compulsory nature of many of the products it sells to the public. Insurance rates are now rising quickly as insurers react to the reality of continuing claims inflation and more limited prospects for investment income and capital growth.

"Brightside’s broking businesses will benefit from increasing insurance rates, where we expect double digit growth in 2009."

He continued: "Our traditional call centre based van business is the largest broker of small commercial van insurance policies in the UK with 88,000 policy sales in 2008. The business traded strongly during the year and continued to make use of technology and more efficient processing to drive the cost base lower and improve margins.

"This was augmented in December 2008 with the successful acquisition of eVan, an online van insurance broker, for an initial consideration of £3.3m and a deferred consideration of a maximum of £1.5m. eVan is now generating in excess of 2,000 policies per month, which is 65% ahead of forecast when the business was acquired. The full impact of the acquisition will be felt in 2009 when a full-year contribution is made.

"Our SME insurance unit covers a full range of commercial insurance products including fleet insurance, package commercial, and large commercial risks. The 26,000 policy sales in 2008 made it one of the largest brokers servicing the highly fragmented small business market.

"Our Torquay based personal lines insurance business experienced strong growth in 2008, with motor and household insurance policy sales increasing 30% to 16,500 sales in 2008.

"Our online household insurance brokerage, eHome, has experienced even more impressive growth, with policy sales increasing over 500% from 1,800 sales in 2007 to 11,000 sales in 2008.

"As well as providing core insurance products to businesses and individuals, we also offer customers a full suite of add on products. In 2008 we had significant success selling these products across our broking units which further improved our overall profitability."

He concluded: "The Brightside Group has continued to expand its business despite the economic downturn. I am confident that with the growth of existing business and the introduction of new products, coupled with cutting edge technology we will see a positive outcome in 2009.

"The first quarter of 2009 has started brightly and we expect to announce further progress when we next report."