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Albany poised for costs shakedown

Helphire Group expects to turn its newly acquired claims management specialist Albany Group – which last year posted operating losses of £4m – into profit within 18 months

Its acquisition last week for £45.8m brings significant additions to Helphire’s portfolio, including a fleet of more than 1,600 courtesy vehicles and eight nationwide depots, plus a 30,000sq ft call centre in County Durham.

The company’s first move will be to look for cost savings, through rationalisation of duplicated functions, efficiencies of fleet management and greater economy of scale.

“We view the acquisition of the Albany Group as an exciting event which we believe will generate significant benefits for shareholders and customers in the medium term,” says Helphire chairman Michael Symons.

The first rationalisation plans are due to be revealed by the end of the year, and Symons says the acquisition is aimed to be “earnings-enhancing” by March 2006. Albany’s legal expenses insurance policies are primarily sold on a wholesale basis to automotive insurers, brokers and intermediaries. More than 1.5m policies were sold last year.

Helphire already provides a full underwritten claims management service to around 40,000 accident victims per month, supplying hire cars which are charged to the insurers of the driver at fault. Its turnover for the year to 2004 was £75.3m, with operating profit of £8.3m

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