Fresh Start considers AIM flotation

The Salford-based affordable housing specialist has appointed consultants Holland Bendelow Consulting Group to advise on its flotation on the Alternative Investment Market, the London Stock Exchange's stock market for growing companies.

Fresh Start Living, based in Swinton, Salford, Greater Manchester, said it started trading in February 2009 in response to the virtual standstill of residential development following the downturn of 2008 and the growing need for affordable homes.

The business transforms empty buildings into homes for tenants to sell to investor landlords.

Fresh Start added it is on target to sell 3,000 units in the financial year 2011-12 and has built a £40m asset base in the north of England. The developer has residential and student accommodation schemes in locations such as Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, Bradford and Greenock, Scotland.

John Holland, managing director of Holland Bendelow, said: "Holland Bendelow confirms that we are currently engaged in advising FreshStart Living on a future AIM flotation.

"With the average price of homes in England and Wales reaching £175,000, this is beyond the reach of many first time buyers, therefore the need for affordable housing and student accommodation has never been greater.

"FreshStart Living's model of transforming empty or under-utilised buildings into affordable modern private sector homes and student accommodation makes a lot of sense. The company's growth in the sector over a relatively short period of time is striking and FreshStart Living's pipeline of new projects is equally impressive''.

Holland declined to give details of the projected date of any flotation or any estimated valuation of the company, which will report its half-year accounts in October.

Stuart Cook, acquisition director at Fresh Start, said the company was "not going to panic" about when its listing will take place, adding the firm will pick its moment depending on the state of the market.

Cook said: "We have been extremely successful in a very short space of time using our own cash reserves and due to the rapid speed at which we have grown during extremely difficult times, we have come up with a strategy of looking to float the company on the AIM.

"We feel that demonstrates our aim of becoming a much larger company, with a much more recognisable profile.

"A lot of people in the market probably see FreshStart as a small local company based in Salford and probably don't realise the value of the sites we have and the sales we have got going through.

"We feel we tick all the right boxes for the AIM market, in that we're a company that has shown growth, has no debt, is very profitable and has the potential for further growth.

"We are in a fortunate position in that we are in control of the situation because we are not driven by the need to desperately raise capital, so we can make sure the market is in the right position to take the company.

"There is no underpinning need to raise the money but of course it will help drive the further growth of the company."

Cook added that Fresh Start wanted to move into new cities around the UK but had no strong desire to target London.

Fresh Start Living employed five staff in January this year, but now has more than 40 employees at its head office in Swinton.

In March, Fresh Start became a UK partner for Sou Fun, the $2bn New York Stock Exchange-listed Chinese internet portal. Fresh Start Living added that it has since signed a similar deal with Malaysian portal King Group and is exploring a partnership in Singapore.

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