Cautious McGrath see emerging prospect of recovery in earnings

Cautious McGrath see emerging prospect of recovery in earnings
Cautious McGrath see emerging prospect of recovery in earnings

The listing volumes of homes for sale remained subdued, which restricted the potential for any big lift in earnings at the publicly listed McGrath estate agency.

And its chief executive Geoff Lucas cautioned that the recent major capital city price jump was likely not sustainable on an annualised basis.

While the three months to October saw property prices in the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan markets increase by 5 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively, Lucas advised he did "not expect this rate of growth to continue.”

He told shareholders the business was recovering.

“While recent above reserve prices, increased auction clearance rates and buyer engagement levels have all improved sentiment, all of which might improve listing levels, we do not see evidence yet of any sustainable improvement,” he said.

McGrath has been busy buying rent rolls.

The company’s rent roll is conservatively valued at $49.4 million, and its Oxygen trailing commission at $2.6 million, while the company has only recognised $11.1m on its balance sheet.

The Australian reported funds managers at the meeting pointed to the value in the company’s rent rolls and the potential for it to grow in future.

Lucas told shareholders at yesterday's annual general meeting that October new listings in Sydney and Melbourne were respectively 6.6 per cent and 15.8 per cent lower than prior year numbers.

"It is volumes however that are contributing to most of the challenges in the industry and whilst we have seen some recent improvements, new listings for the industry are still down on the prior year," Mr Lucas said.

"While recent above reserve prices, increased auction clearance rates and buyer engagement levels have all improved sentiment, all of which might improve listing levels, we do not see evidence yet of any sustainable improvement."

The company said it expected to post earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of between $1 to $1.5 million in the first half of the year, a lift from a $10.1 million EBITDA loss for the whole of 2019.

Lucas would not be drawn into offering any forecast statutory net profit, which has been in the red over the past two years. 

The company was confident however it could maintain an upward momentum but cautioned the recovery would not be swift.

"We’re pleased to advise that there are some promising signs starting to come through in the market," chief executive Geoff Lucas said.

The Chinese developer Aqualand lifted its investment in the ASX listed McGrath estate agency from 15 per cent to 18.5 per cent last month.

The increase in its stake followed Aqualand’s acquisition of an initial 15 per cent in McGrath last year

Aqualand will remain McGrath’s second largest shareholder, behind John McGrath's own 22 percent stake.

The annual general meeting came amid sex harassment allegations that came to light last week in the Daily Telegraph.

Shareholders fear it could impede the company's road to recovery, as it involves its head of sales, Adrian Bo who denies any misdoing.

Mr Lucas said investigations were still ongoing.

John McGrath has been drafted in as the temporary head of the McGrath sales team in the leave of absence being taken Adrian Bo.

The role of company sales team leader was shared by Mr Bo and Mr McGrath following the departure in June of Kon Stathopoulos.

The company's share price closed at 30¢ on Thursday, up 1¢ from Wednesday.

Its debut IPO price in 2016 was $2.10, and it traded at an all time low in June.

Tags: 
Mcgrath Adrian Bo

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