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Alexander Hall to expand

Alexander Hall is to expand its branch network and broker headcount following the takeover of parent group Foxtons by BC Partners for 390m.

Chief operating officer Andy Pratt says BC Partners is backing the plans, which will see Alexander Hall open more offices in Guildford and Surrey, where it only has one office, and expand further in London.

Pratt says: “BC Partners liked our business model and is keen for us to continue our strong growth. It is very much business as usual otherwise. There are no changes other than Michael Brown becoming chief executive officer once the deal receives regulatory approval.”

Pratt says the number of brokers is set to increase by a third by the end of the year.

He says: “We have increased the number of mortgage advisers from 45 to 90 over the last year and we have around 60 currently in training. We hope to have about 120 advisers in place by the end of this year.”

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Apple: a stellar technology story

By Ali Unwin, head of technology sector research

Apple recently announced the highest-ever recorded quarterly net profit ($18bn), with the sale of 74.4 million iPhones helping the company deliver $74.6bn of revenue for the quarter ending December 2014. These sales were largely driven by strong demand for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Highlights included Chinese iPhone sales doubling year-on-year and unit growth of 44% in the US — supposedly a well-penetrated market. Apple ended the quarter with $178bn in cash on its balance sheet, having generated a staggering $30bn in free cash flow during the quarter.

At Neptune, we have been long-term believers in the Apple story, and continue to hold the stock in a number of our portfolios based on the company’s long-term growth prospects. This is predicated on our belief that Apple has proved thus far that it can — unusually for a consumer electronics company — maintain high margins for a sustained period of time, even as adoption of new technology slows down and competitors produce similar-specification products.

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