John Underwood

Freshwater enjoys another successful year despite difficult trading conditions

Freshwater UK plc, the leading independent communications consultancy, today announces annual results for 2016/17 showing another successful year of trading with turnover of £4.52m, including revenue from fees and commission of £3.77m.

Fees and commission earned by Freshwater’s consultancy divisions – which provide the full range of online and offline communications services – were at the same level as in the previous year, despite significantly tougher trading conditions. 

Overall revenue was down one per cent on 2015/16. This was entirely due to a temporary reduction in delegate bookings for events organised by Freshwater’s conference and training business following the EU referendum and uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations.

Freshwater’s operating profit for the year was £0.72m, compared with £0.81m in 2015/16. The small fall in operating profit was due to increases in staff costs arising from the company’s ongoing commitment to operating ethical employment practices.  

“Freshwater regards its commitment to ethical employment practices – including a commitment to the Living Wage and properly paid internships – as being important to its long-term success. As a people business, we attach a lot of importance to recruiting and retaining talented, highly-professional staff,” said chief executive John Underwood.

“Doubts over the outcome of Brexit negotiations coupled with political uncertainty during and after the snap general election of June 2017 made for challenging trading conditions in 2016/17 but our strategy of specialising in key sectors and operating from offices in Cardiff and London both continue to work well.  In 2016/17 we delivered projects for clients across the country from the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh and from Anglesey to Colchester.”

Freshwater’s balance sheet continued to strengthen with net current assets, including a positive cash balance, increasing 31 per cent on last year.  The company continues to operate debt free.

Freshwater, which celebrated 20 years of trading earlier this year, specialises in supporting clients in professional and business services, the healthcare sector, the transport sector and in consumer and retail.  Over the course of the year, the company provided services to almost 150 clients with just over 50% of revenue coming from the private sector, just over 30% from the public sector with other revenue coming from not-for-profit organisations and the company’s conference programme.

Earlier this year Steve Howell, the former BBC journalist who founded Freshwater in 1997, stood down as chief executive to take on the role of Deputy Director of Strategy and Communications at the Labour Party.  Freshwater’s deputy chief executive, John Underwood, stepped into the chief executive role.  Following the June general election Steve left the employment of the Labour Party and is now writing a book about the election campaign.  He remains fully involved with Freshwater as a non-executive director.


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