Robust performance in extraordinary times

Aquila Services Group plc, the quoted parent company of Altair, ATFS and Oaks, has just reported its interim results for the 6 months ended 30 September 2020 to the London Stock Exchange.

Altair is the UK-based leading affordable consultancy providing governance, financing and property services to housing associations, local authorities, government agencies as well as several international clients. Oaks provides services and support for socially focused organisations including professional football clubs, multi-academy educational trusts, sports foundations and organisations working on communities to improve health and wellbeing. ATFS is the Group’s treasury advice and management vehicle working in the education and affordable housing sector particularly concentrating on raising and managing new funds.

Derek Joseph, Group Chair, commented: “In a year that has been difficult to forecast with accuracy, the agility of our consultants and resilience of our clients has meant we have been able to continue business with ease. This was 6 months dominated by the pandemic with all parts of the business moving to remote working swiftly and effectively. The property business had to enable a model to help local authorities and housing associations manage new housing developments and urgent safety works through a virtual platform. With travel suspended, the international projects had to be sustained with local support staff. For Oaks many of the businesses and organisations they worked with were either shut down or operating behind closed doors. ATFS had to concentrate on representing their clients directly with the financial institutions and ensuring the effects of COVID did not breach any banking or other business covenants.”

I am pleased to report that these challenges were introduced more smoothly than we could ever have anticipated and strengthened the relationships with our clients”.

Inevitably the changes required some restructuring of the Group’s business. A small number of staff were made redundant and we also took advantage of the furlough scheme for six colleagues. We are pleased to report that all the furloughed staff have been brought back into the business. We have taken the opportunity to launch some new digital services and products and the underlying strength of the business means we are now thinking of expanding capacity in some of these new areas.

Turnover for the 6 months was £3.5m (2019: £3.9m) and operating profits before redundancy costs, share option charges and taxation were £313k (2019: 306k).  The reported profit net of these costs was £174k (2019: £195k). The directors are sufficiently optimistic about activity for the remainder of this financial year to have announced an interim dividend.

The Group has increased its cash reserves through a small equity issue (£250k) and the sale of an investment at a profit rather than seeking loan financing to support additional working capital to manage finances through the pandemic. The Group now has nil debt and significant cash balances, higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic and this will be now be  targeted at  future expansion. 

“The pandemic has undoubtedly been a learning experience for both the Group and our clients. Our team of consultants have adapted and worked closely with their clients, albeit remotely, to ensure that they continue to receive excellent and considered advice. Our client relationships have strengthened as a result and we are looking forward to the next half year as we continue to work in this way”.

Fiona Underwood, Executive Director of the Group and CEO of subsidiary Altair, commented.

 The Group is in a stronger and more focused position to look to a bright future of growth where we have the services, products, consultants, and financial resources to support the ambitions of our clients. 

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