AA share price rose five per cent after reversing falling membership trend

 
Oliver Gill
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The AA was founded in 1905 and is headquartered in Basingstoke (Source: Getty)

Shares in motoring association the AA leapt five per cent today after the firm announced it had reversed the trend of falling membership numbers.

The group posted its 2016 that showed revenue and earnings rose while operating profit fell.

The figures

Annual revenue rose from £925m to £940m, earnings were broadly flat at £403m.

Operating profit fell by 4.4 per cent to £284m.

Adjusted earnings per share fell from 21.8p to 21.3p.

Net debt was £2.7bn, down from £2.8bn 12 months ago.

Personal membership swelled by 2.5 per cent, from 3,331,000 to 3,335,000.

Why it's interesting

Stopping the rot of declining membership stretching back nine years pleased the market this morning. The AA has had plenty to manage since a private equity trio comprising of CVC, Permira and Charterhouse dropped it back onto the London Stock Exchange in 2014.

Near the top (if not top) of the list of concerns is the fact the AA is stuffed full of debt. The firm's £2.7bn of net debt compares with a market capitalisation of £1.5bn.

Read more: The AA to raise £935m for debt repayment plan

But it managed to refinance a chunk of its bonds during the year, a move that will save the firm around £8m annually. Selling off its Irish division for £130m also gave the group the opportunity to reduce its loans by £106m.

The AA's pension deficit was in a much rosier position too, falling from £622m last July to £395m at the end of January.

Read more: The AA's shares jump on news of bond refinancing

What the company said

Executive chairman Bob Mackenzie said: "The transformation is delivering growth in our roadside assistance membership base and of motor insurance policies, reversing long-term historic declines. It has given us a firm platform for sustainable growth.

"We have delivered results in line with expectations, mitigating the increases in insurance premium tax and call outs, and paid a progressive dividend.

"In addition, the refinancing reduced the cash cost of debt by £10m per annum, bringing the annualised total reduction since the IPO to more than £75m."

We are realising the AA’s potential. We are now capable of building on our technologies, brand and positioning in our markets to take advantage of the abundant opportunities that arise from our ability to fulfil a wider set of consumer and business needs.

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