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IFA &#39jewels&#39 are up for sell-off

Bradford & Bingley&#39s bid to become the first high-street multi-tie will see its IFA empire sold off as part of plans to cut £40m from annual costs.

The strategy U-turn by the board engineered by chief executive Steven Crawshaw will see it dispose of its clutch of IFAs.

Advisory and mortgage business Charcol with 215 advisers, Charcol Holden Meehan, which has 34 RIs, and Aitchison & Colegrave, with 22 RIs, are all being sold.

B&B says the businesses hold strong positions in their respective markets but are not contributing enough to group profits. The non-core businesses accounted for £150m of revenues in 2003.

B&B paid £100m for Charcol in 2000 during a period of acquisition activity but analysts believe it is unlikely to resell at that price. Bank of Ireland is tipped as a likely suitor for the IFA because it is building its advisory arm in the UK.

Charcol senior technical manager Ray Boulger says: “Charcol has always been entrepreneurial in spirit and it may well be easier to deal with staff retention in terms of consultants. I can see interesting challenges ahead – all the cards are on the table. Our assets are primarily our people and whichever way the sale goes, if it is not done in a way that is acceptable to the staff, it won&#39t work.”

Hamptons International Mortgages managing director Kevin Duffy says: “The brokerage business at Charcol has been struggling under a weight of middle men and non-fee-earners who have undermined the brand&#39s profitability.”

Housing expert John Wriglesworth says: “This is a sensible decision. The chief executive is selling off the jewel in B&B&#39s crown with the disposal of Charcol. However, this is a step in the right direction for B&B – the first one for years.”

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