Cold snap boosts Homeserve demand

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Home emergency repairs group Homeserve has said the cold December boosted customer numbers

Home emergency repairs group Homeserve has said the coldest December on record helped boost customer numbers as households sought protection for burst pipes and broken boilers.

The group reported a 2% rise in UK customers at the end of December against a year earlier, helped by a slight increase in policy sales amid the freezing weather.

But Homeserve suffered itself during the cold snap, struggling to keep up with demand as emergency call-outs flooded in. It recently apologised to customers, saying call waiting times and service levels had been affected due to an “unusually” high number of customer calls.

The firm drafted in extra engineers to help and added more capable vehicles to reach remote customers and said it was working hard to resolve emergencies as quickly as possible.

Homeserve said the number of jobs completed was more than 30% higher in December than the year before as it was inundated with requests.

The group is aiming for 3% to 4% UK customer growth in the full financial year to March.

Total customer numbers across the UK and its overseas operations were 4.8 million and policy numbers 10.9 million as at the end of 2010, both up around 14% year-on-year.

Homeserve, which became the main sponsor of Premiership football team West Bromwich Albion last year, also has operations in the US and across Europe.

Kevin Lapwood, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, said UK customer growth numbers were marginally below expectations, although he added the overall statement was in-line.

Homeserve reported a 13% rise in pre-tax profits for the half-year to September 30. The market expects it to report full-year underlying profits of around £116.2 million, up from £100.6 million.

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