PRICE comparison website, moneysupermarket.com says it has seen signs of recovery after revenues were hit by a credit drought in 2009.
The Flintshire-based firm reported evidence of “building momentum” in sales so far during 2010, helped by a new advertising campaign fronted by comedian Omid Djalili.
Revenues slid 22% to £136.9m in the 12 months to the end of December, with the damage done mainly by a 44% slump in sales at its money division.
That was caused by a shift in the sales mix away from more lucrative credit products towards savings and the closure of its biggest revenue generator – Barclays’ First Plus loans arm – to new business.
The firm said: “The current level of trading is consistent with the board’s view that the business has stabilised and the worst is behind us.”
The Ewloe-based firm added underlying earnings were down 26% to £36m for the year. The group shed 80 jobs last April to cut costs, but there have been no further job cuts since then and the workforce remains at 450.
Revenues are ahead in all of the firm’s operating businesses so far this year except travel, which has suffered as consumers rein in discretionary spending.
Despite the slide in profits, moneysupermarket.com co-founder Simon Nixon, of Chester, who has a 52% stake in the group and is deputy chairman, chairman Gerald Corbett, senior independent non-executive director Michael Wemms and chief financial officer Paul Doughty shared a total of £22.8m in dividends from the group during the year, compared with £7.9m in 2008.
Mr Corbett said: “While 2009 was a tough year for the group, it is a measure of the resilience of the business that it was able to maintain its dividend at 2008 levels and declare two special dividends totalling £50m, giving a total dividend for the year of £68m.”
The group unveiled another special dividend of £25m for investors and said the cost cutting moves carried out by chief executive Peter Plumb had set the business up for growth as the economy recovers. He said customers’ appetite for searching online for the best deals was stronger than ever.
Numis analyst, James Hamilton, flagged up the potential for further one-off dividend payouts and said there was “scope for recovery” in money revenues although he expects this to “be years, not months away”.