Profits have leapt at price comparison website MoneySupermarket.com in the first half of the year, but shares dropped at the open as its chief executive announced his intention to step down from the company.
Profits before tax came in at £47.1m in the first six months of the year for the website, up one quarter from last year.
Total sales rose from £143.8m to £157.6m across the company's three main brands – MoneySupermarket.com, TravelSupermarket.com and MoneySavingExpert.com.
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On an adjusted basis, profits were up by six per cent to £53.8m after accounting for various acquisition costs, and a higher spend on marketing and advertising, the company said.
MoneySupermarket.com said its customers saved a combined £900m in cheaper prices in the first six months of the year.
Why it's interesting
Although traffic to MoneySupermarket.com websites was broadly flat at an average of around 24m unique visitors each month, the firm has clearly managed to turn more of them into paying customers and win more in commission from other retailers.
While financial products – predominantly insurance – remain the group's main money spinner, CEO Peter Plumb has stepped down after overseeing the acquisition of MoneySavingExpert.com, broadening its lines of business, and taking the company's share price from 45p when he took over in 2009 to more than 300p at yesterday's close.
Plumb will stay fully engaged in the business until May 2017 and help oversee the recruitment of his successor. Investors were nervous however, and the firm was down three per cent to 292p in the first minutes of trading.
MoneySupermarket.com said while the EU referendum and potential living standards squeeze meant it was more important than ever for customers to shop around and compare prices, it was worried it still may take a Brexit hit.
Specifically, it is concerned firms may rein in their plethora of product lines, which is typically seen as good for websites like MoneySupermarket.com which can aggregate and compare them all. Moreover, with insurance, credit cards and travel products providing the bulk of the group's income, any tightening of loan criteria or reduced demand to take on credit or splash out on big purchases might hit traffic and revenues.
What MoneySupermarket.com said
On its half-year results, outgoing CEO Peter Plumb said:
First half trading up 10 per cent is another good start for MoneySupermarket Group. Millions of households used us to save money on household bills so far this year, and we have a growing number of innovative new products that help more people save in more ways.
Saving customers money becomes even more relevant in these uncertain times after the EU referendum.
On his departure from the company, Plumb added:
Nearly eight years as CEO of the MoneySupermarket Group have flown by. We have built the UK's leading price comparison site, empowering tens of millions of families across the UK to save hundreds of pounds each, for free, on their household bills. We've built trusted brands, put in place new platforms and made switching a habit for many UK households.
Chairman of MoneySupermarket Group Bruce Carnegie-Brown thanked Plumb for his success as CEO, stating:
We are indebted to Peter for his leadership of MoneySupermarket since he became chief executive in February 2009
A CEO checking out on a high, but even if more people are shopping around after Brexit, this price comparison website is worried weaker demand across the board could hit performance.