South Shields energy consultancy Utilitywise hunts for new headquarters

South Shields based Utilitywise expects to double staffing levels to around 1,400 by July 2016, prompting a search for a new base

Geoff Thompson of Utilitywise
Geoff Thompson of Utilitywise

Energy consultancy Utilitywise is planning to move into larger North East headquarters as it scales up the business to serve rapidly-growing customer numbers and targets a doubling of revenues to £85m in 2016.

The South Shields-based business, which manages energy and water meters for public and private sector companies, has reported strong performance for the six months to January 31 2014, with turnover rising 105% to £21m, while pre-tax profits also doubled to £4.05m from £1.99m.

The impressive results were attributed to £27m of new business secured in the period, growth of the customer base and the successful integration of three acquired firms, as well as continued expansion of the energy consultants team.

Based on its strong results and forward-looking strategy, all forecasts for the next three financial years have been upgraded, and chief executive Geoff Thompson said the business will finish the year end ahead of market expectations.

Turnover for 2014 is predicted to top £45m, rising to £62.5m and £85m in 2015 and 2016 respectively, pushing up pre-tax profit to an adjusted £13m for 2014 up from the reported £6.2m in 2013, which is estimated to almost double to £25m in 2016.

Thompson said: “We’re very pleased. There is lots of hard work ahead but these results demonstrate the strength of our proposition, our continued ability to scale our business model and the important differentiation we have achieved through our on-going development of our energy management products and services.”

Over the period the team of energy consultants has grown by 34% to meet rising demand, bringing the total number of energy consultants to 347, and the group also plans to significantly increase the number of customer service employees to drive longer-term customer retention rates.

The customer base has increased to 17,903, growth of 36% compared to January 31 2013, and this has led to a continued improvement in the renewal rate of contracts to 74% for SME customers.

Over the last 18 months the business has integrated three acquisitions – Clouds, Aqua Veritas and EIC – which led to the creation of the Utility Management Services division, which looks after industrial and commercial customers. The division now represents 21% of group revenue and renewal rate of contracts for its customers has reached 89%.

Last October the group said it was planning to scale the business model for a third time, which would see the number of energy consultants increase by 120 to 400 by the end of the current financial year, compared to 181 in July 2012. The group now plans to nearly double the number of energy consultants to 720 by July 2016 – and additional 20 additional energy consultants per month.

It also plans to swell the ranks in support areas including training, IT, HR and finance, which will take the total group headcount to around 1,400 by year end 2016.

The expansion will lead to the business moving from its current site in South Shields, which is now close to capacity, and the firm is currently looking at two potential properties in the area.

The company said the board will decide on which property to choose later in the year.

As revealed earlier by the Journal Utilitywise has also announced it is forging ahead with its expansion into Europe through the acquisition of Prague-based communication company ICON, which operates a call centre employing 150 people in the Czech Republic.

An initial £1.08m has been paid for ICON, with an additional £1.2m due by the end of April next year.

Founded in 2003, the company reported revenues of £3m for 2013 and has the capacity to expand to 300 employees.

The acquisition is the next step in Utilitywise’s European strategy which began two years, and involved the firm taking on French and German speakers here in the North East.

Utilitywise already has a long-standing partnership with the French oil and gas TOTAL, marketing its Total Gas and Power (TGP) supply services in a number of European markets. TGP and Utilitywise have now agreed to expand their operations with two contracts, running until the end of 2016.

The first will see 20 jobs created in Prague for TGP telesales services to France, while the second involves a move into the German business-to-business market, creating around 100 further jobs.

Thompson added: “We did a lot of market testing making sure of its relevance to French and German customers, using French and German nationals based here in the North East.

“We also invested in IT systems and a CRM platform designed specifically for their markets. We are now confident we can serve that market more fully so we will carry on with the North East-based French and German speakers but further growth will be made in Prague, serving French and German and Benelux markets.”

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