Industry reacts positively to Charcol MBO

The mortgage industry reaction to Bradford & Bingley’s official announcement of the sale of Charcol, has been largely positive.

The company confirmed that it had been disposed to Castlegate 342, a newly-formed company backed by a consortium of investors including Advantage Capital.

In a release, B&B says Charcol had estimated net assets on completion of about 8m and did not make a material contribution to Bradford & Bingley’s profits in the half year to June 30 2004.

The move has been in the main welcomed by members of the mortgage industry, viewing it as a return to the firm’s roots.

Matthew Wiles, group development director at Portman, says: “I think theyll now go back to being a well respected London intermediary. Its clear that the Charcol vine was withering and this will lead to bigger things.”

John Malone, head of Premier Mortgage Services, says: “They will put back in the emotion, empathy and entrepreneurialism that is probably not in the business at the moment.”

And Mike Fitzgerald, sales director of Brentchase Financial Services, says: “Charcol was instrumental in bringing mortgages and advice out of the dark ages and it has a strong, recognisable brand.

“I would expect it to be business as usual and a management shake up and the beginning of a different regime will present a clear vision to staff.

However, he adds: “The announcement wont have much of an effect on people outside of Charcol.”

And this is a view shared by Jonathan Cornell, technical director at Hamptons International Mortgages.

He says: “One of the key words is entrepreneurial roots, which would indicate that they are going to work with a smaller team.

“If theyre going for a leaner business model, will lenders be quite so deferential if they are not producing the volumes of business?

“Ultimately, as one of the big players, Charcol gets products thrown their way that the majority miss out on.

“I dont know if it will be as bad for the London broker market people learnt a lot of things from Charcol and took it elsewhere. I dont think Charcol will have an impact.

“The fact also remains that the acquisition has been arranged by venture capitalists. I imagine they have a predefined exit strategy and will be unforgiving with the performance but good luck to them.”