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Lomond Capital on the acquisition trail

Sheila Manchester speaks to Stuart Pender, Chief Executive, Lomond Capital.

Sheila Manchester
Stuart Pender and Bruce Evans, Lomond Capital, image

Stuart Pender and Bruce Evans.

Not so long ago, Countrywide was the most energetic acquisitor in agency sales, the first port of call for those who wanted to move up – or off – the ladder. Times change and Lomond Capital now has the largest appetite for growth, with £37.5 million available to fund its expansion in the South of England and a new Group Managing Director, Bruce Evans. Previously the Managing Director of Countrywide’s operations in London and South of England, Bruce’s previous experience will prove hugely valuable in its expansion into the South and he will play a vital role in Lomond’s growth in existing markets.

Since its inception in 2010, Lomond has made 30 acquisitions and employs 350 people. It manages residential properties worth £2.5 billion and sells £600 million worth of property every year.

However, because they generally retain the brand names of the acquisitions, the growth has been quiet. These include Thornley Groves in Manchester, John Shepherd in Birmingham, Braemore in Edinburgh and Stonehouse in Aberdeen and St Andrews.

Brand Vaughan, Brighton, image

Brand Vaughan in Brighton.

The latest acquisition is Brand Vaughan in Brighton, which manages 1,250 properties and sells £175 million worth of property a year.

Lomond will fund their expansion along the South Coast. The existing management team at Brand Vaughan remain significant shareholders while Lomond Capital Chief Executive, Stuart Pender, will become Chairman.

Stuart said, “Lomond has been interested in expanding and Brighton was a key target. We were delighted to acquire the majority stake and very much look forward to working with them to secure other acquisitions, within Brighton and across the South Coast.”

Tom Ghibaldan, Chief Executive, Brand Vaughan, added, “We are very proud of the business we have built and delighted to be in a position where we can continue to service our dedicated client base.

“We were encouraged by Lomond’s expertise in other regions and are thrilled to be working with the team to deliver our plans for the next phase of growth as a business.”

GOOD NEWS FOR BRAND VAUGHAN, HOW MIGHT OTHERS JOIN THE PARTY?

Stuart says, “Lomond targets key locations with a quality, private rented sector and high average rental return. The opportunity to build volume and scale through organic growth and further acquisitions is a priority. We pinpoint a location, identify well-run businesses with potential for growth and a strong management team to act as our hub business in the region.

“They normally operate in both lettings and estate agency markets with a quality portfolio and existing customer base. We then look to acquire smaller businesses in the region looking to exit, allowing us to build scale in the region.”

WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT, LETTINGS _ OR SALES?

“When we enter a new city we like to have the capability to do both sales and lettings. While the popularity of lettings has grown massively, and the size of a firm’s lettings book is a key consideration, selling is still a huge part of our business and some people would still rather buy if they are able to. By offering both, we continue to work with customers as they move up the property ladder as well as landlords.”

WHAT ABOUT THE ‘THREAT’ OF ONLINE AGENTS?

“We clearly see that the online, and in particular hybrid, agencies are taking a share of the market. It is our belief that there is a place for all types of agency, choice for customers is a good thing. We do not believe that anyone has an offering that works for every type of customer, however the numbers show that the market is moving and agents need to be prepared to adapt.”

WILL LOMOND’S MODEL BECOME HYBRID?

“We are and will remain focused on high levels of customer service. We also recognise that our customers’ needs and demands are changing and we will evolve our model to meet customer demand.

“We don’t have any hybrid offerings at the moment but are watching closely and may offer that when we have something that will work for the percentage of our customers who wish to transact in a different way. Right now we are a modern business which offers high levels of customer service, communication and interaction. For the foreseeable future a large part of the market want this level of service.”

DO YOU PLAN NEW BRANCHES?

“Opening new offices isn’t necessarily a priority for us but we are open to any possibility. If we want to open in a new location and we cannot find the right business to buy, we will consider a cold start as an option.”

AND FINALLY _ WHERE NEXT?

“Our latest phase of expansion focuses on developing our position on the South Coast of England and Greater London, however we are open to a move into any city in the South where the right opportunities fit our model.”

July 11, 2017

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