2017 marked 21 years of uninterrupted profit growth for the Belvoir Group.
I am pleased to report that the Belvoir Group has made significant progress, increasing profitability by over 60%, in a year that has been a testing one for some companies in the property sector.
Total revenue of £11.3m was underpinned by increases in both MSF from lettings and sales of 23% and 21% respectively, with organic growth being enhanced by growth from acquisitions and increased take-up of property sales by both the Belvoir and Northwood networks. This is a testament to the resilience of the business format franchising model and the responsiveness of this model to changing markets. In the face of uncertainty from the introduction of new regulations, our franchisees have risen to the challenge with many seeing growth through portfolio acquisition opportunities at a local level and pursuing new revenue streams, such as property sales and financial services, as a means to securing their long-term future.
The Board of Belvoir identified financial services as a potential growth area for the Group, and in July 2017 acquired Brook as an excellent vehicle for maximising our return from individual property transactions through the sale of specialist mortgage and property-related financial services. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Michelle Brook and her team to the Belvoir Group. Brook is already working closely with all 39 Newton Fallowell offices and, with 25 Belvoir and six Northwood offices already on board, I have every confidence in their ability to roll out their financial services offering across the other group networks.
At the Group level, we continue in our aim to extend our share of the UK property market by leveraging our expertise as a franchisor, as we see a genuine benefit to all stakeholders from further consolidation within the sector. We firmly believe that Belvoir is best placed to take advantage of consolidation at both the franchisee and franchisor level. Furthermore, the Board is committed to broadening the range of property services offered by our franchisees, building on their reputation for delivering a highly professional lettings and estate agency service throughout the customer property journey.
As Chairman, I am especially pleased with the strength and depth of our senior team, from the main Board Directors to the management teams of our various trading subsidiaries, Belvoir, Northwood, Newton Fallowell and Brook, all of whom are long-serving and very capable. These dedicated teams have been instrumental in doubling the number and value of transactions under the Assisted Acquisitions programme, successfully integrating the Northwood network to deliver a 58% increase in its EBITDA within 19 months, and starting the process of cross-selling financial services to the whole Group through Brook. In addition we have recently completed our planned programme to franchise all but the two original Grantham-based Belvoir and Newton Fallowell corporate offices, enabling us to focus entirely on the further development of our franchise model.
Our headline figures reflect how successfully the Belvoir Group has performed in 2017. Revenue increased by 14% to £11.3m (2016: £9.9m), operating profit of £3.9m (2016: £2.5m) is an increase of 56%, profit before tax of £3.9m (2016: £2.4m) is up 62%, and there has been a 28% improvement in the adjusted earnings per share (EPS) to 11.3p (2016: 8.8p). These figures reflect a full year of Northwood and a part-year contribution from Brook but nevertheless they are significant and have encouraged us to increase our dividend to 6.9p per share, showing our confidence in the strength of the Group to continue to deliver on its growth strategy.
Finally, we say farewell to Nicholas Leeming as a Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Remuneration Committee. Nicholas has been with us for over five years, having joined just after Belvoir floated on AIM, and in that time he has brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to the Board. I would like to thank him for his valuable contribution and wish him the very best for the future. At the same time we welcome Michael Stoop to the Board. Michael has over 40 years’ experience of the franchise property market, having held the role of Group Managing Director initially at Winkworth, then at Legal and General’s estate agency network, Xperience, where he was instrumental in converting the corporate-owned offices into a wholly franchised network of 95 offices, and most recently at the Property Franchise Group plc until he stood down in 2016. I am confident that with his background and experience Michael will make a valuable contribution to the Group’s strategy.