Birmingham stockbroker Arden Partners has said the tide is starting to turn in the market, even though it was pushed into the red in the first half of the year.
The Edgbaston-based firm made a loss before tax of £300,000 in the six months leading up to April 30 as equity markets froze and the amount of corporate activity dropped sharply.
Revenue was down 30 per cent – in line with the market as a whole – and the loss was compared to a £1.3m profit the same time in 2008. The loss also covers a one-off payment of about £300,000, meaning the firm was just in the black when it came to underlying profit.
Arden Partners had predicted a tough year at the start of 2009, and had been building up its cash deposits. At the start of the year it said it had been pleased simply to stay in profit.
Chief executive Jonathan Keeling said the last six recorded months of trading had been even worse but predicted a return to profitability in the second half of the year as the markets had already improved significantly since April.
The glut of talented people coming on to the market had been a huge opportunity for more cash-rich firms to improve staff rosters. Arden took on two staff members in the period – head of equities Andrew Heath from Numis, and Huw Williams, formerly head of oil and gas research at Bear Stearns in London.
Mr Keeling added that the continuing growth in the Indian economy had been a godsend for the firm as other global markets contracted. Arden partners has a strong presence in India – the brokerage’s largest client, KSK Power Ventur, is heavily focused on South Asia.
Mr Keeling said: “I feel that we have certainly performed as well as the rest of the market. Back in November through to February I can’t tell you how bad the markets felt. Those were by far the worst months for us. But since the interim period came to an end things started to get better. May has been a record month for trading. June has also been a very strong month and the corporate market has been good. All bets are still on but the current pipeline is a strong one.
“Maintaining the strong cash position was important for two major reasons. Firstly, it can see companies through a bad period. Secondly, if clients see a good cash position they have more confidence in you.”
The proportion of the firm’s income coming from equities dropped, with Mr Keeling saying he would expect things to even out over the rest of 2009. “We are virtually back to the budgeting process from last summer,” he said. “We have recruited since the end of the period and will have more new hires coming in the next six months. These are good quality people coming here – Andrew wasn’t a casualty, he left Numis of his own accord, but an ex-Bear Stearns researcher is someone we wouldn’t have been able to take on normally. We have battened down the hatches and come out with a positive result.”