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The UK once led the world in coal production, mining more than 200million tons a year in the early 20th Century. Production still exceeded 100million tons in Margaret Thatcher’s era and, even 20 years ago, the industry, while much diminished, remained a potent force in pockets of the country. 

That was when Gordon Banham took over Hargreaves Services, which mined, processed and transported coal across the UK. Banham was a career coal man, business was good and the company was floated on the junior AIM market in 2006. By 2012, the shares had almost tripled to more than £12. 

Today, the price is just £4.00. Environmental concerns have made coal progressively less popular and Banham was forced to reinvent the business, selling off the final remnants of his coal stock in December 2020. 

Change of direction: Hargreaves went from mining to developing brownfield sites with housebuilders

Change of direction: Hargreaves went from mining to developing brownfield sites with housebuilders

Looking ahead, however, prospects are bright and the stock should rise. Hargreaves now has three divisions – land regeneration, trading and recycling, and industrial services. All three are performing well and growth is expected to accelerate over the next five to ten years. 

Reassuringly too, Christopher Mills, a veteran investor with a history of picking winners, owns 28.5 per cent of the shares, while Banham owns a further 8.2 per cent, so is clearly incentivised to deliver returns. 

As a former mining business, Hargreaves Services owned plenty of land – 17,000 acres a decade ago, equivalent to the size of the city of Hull. Some of that was sold off to generate cash but the group still has 11,000 acres to play with and Banham has been putting it to good use. 

Decades of mining and processing took their toll but the land has been cleaned up and converted for homes and businesses. 

Blindwells is the largest development in the group, a new town just south of Edinburgh, where 8,000 houses will be built over the next 20 years, as well as schools, surgeries and shops. A joint venture with housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, the project will provide Hargreaves with years of annual income, as land is progressively developed and homes are sold. 

A smaller project outside Doncaster is transforming a deep coal mine site into more than 3,000 homes. Meanwhile, in Fife, what was once the largest open coal mine in the UK is set to become an industrial park, powered by a renewable energy plant that will convert waste into electricity.

Several more projects are under way, from wind farms in Scotland to a retail park in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. Taken together, these do not just provide steady recurring income for Hargreaves, they also regenerate swathes of brownfield land, creating homes and jobs in the process. 

Hargreaves’ trading and recycling arm has environmental credentials too. Based near Dusseldorf and co-owned with a German partner, the business acquires dust from steel plants across Europe and converts it into more than 300,000 tons a year of pig iron and zinc concentrate. In the past this dust would have gone into landfill. Now it is sold to big firms for use in construction and manufacturing. 

Commodity prices have soared in recent months so the business is raking in profit and likely to expand materially over the next few years. Aligned to this business, the trading division buys and sells commodities and delivers steady income year in, year out.

Hargreaves’ third arm builds on the group’s heritage to deliver a range of industrial services, from moving earth for the HS2 rail project to maintaining equipment for Drax, the power generation group. 

There is also a long-term contract with Tungsten West, the recently floated tin and tungsten mining group, based near Plymouth. 

Production is expected to start next year and could generate up to £2.5million in annual revenue thereafter. 

Interim results on Wednesday should reassure investors that Hargreaves is on track and brokers forecast turnover of £166million and profit of £12.5million for the year to May 31, 2022, rising substantially next year. 

A 20p dividend has been pencilled in for 2022, putting the stock on a yield of 5 per cent, with payments expected to increase steadily over time.

Midas verdict: Recent years have undoubtedly been harsh for Hargreaves Services but the business has now been transformed, using skills and assets from the past to create a robust and resilient business for the future. At £4.00, the shares are a buy

Traded on: AIM Ticker: HSP Contact: hsgplc.co.uk or 0191 373 4485 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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MIDAS SHARE TIPS UPDATE: Gaming gets serious as our tip Keywords Studios rises 17-fold in seven years










Last week, Microsoft announced it was paying $69billion (£50billion) for Activision Blizzard, the video games group behind such hugely popular titles as Call Of Duty and Candy Crush. The amount, roughly equal to Northern Ireland’s annual economic output, provides graphic evidence of the store that industry giants set by the video gaming industry. 

With good reason: the market generated sales of more than £130billion in 2021 and forecasters expect that to increase to £160billion a year within three years. 

Keywords Studios is a major beneficiary of gaming’s growing popularity. The business was floated on AIM at £1.23 in 2013 and was recommended by Midas at £1.53 two years later. Today, the shares are £26.38, Keywords is valued on the stock market at £2billion and City brokers are confident that there is plenty more growth to come. 

Fired up: Keywords Studios works on video games including Call Of Duty

Fired up: Keywords Studios works on video games including Call Of Duty

Keywords helps games publishers to make their products more successful. The group provides music and artwork for games, creates enticing trailers and social media posts, tests titles before they are released and translates them into several languages.

Keywords even helps to develop games for publishers. Customers include both Microsoft and Activision, Sony, Google, Apple and Nintendo. The company has worked on hundreds of top games and the business is growing fast, expanding its range of services organically and through acquisition. 

A trading update last month revealed that figures for 2021 would be ahead of market expectations with sales up 35 per cent to €505million (£420million) and profits up 55 per cent to more than €85million. New chief executive Bertrand Bodson was even confident enough to declare that turn­over this year would be at the top end of forecasts, as demand for Keywords’ services expands and develops. 

Another update this week should underscore December’s upbeat outlook, perhaps prompting brokers to look again at their forecasts for 2021 and 2022. Current estimates show sales rising 18 per cent this year to €594million, with profits up 9 per cent to €93million. The company reports in euros because it was founded in Ireland and is still headquartered in Dublin, but dividends are declared in sterling, with 2.1p pencilled in for 2021, rising to 2.25p this year. 

Video games soared in popularity when the coronavirus pandemic erupted and lockdowns were declared across the world. There were predictions that growth would slow when consumers were allowed to leave their homes and pursue other leisure activities. But it seems as if gaming has an enduring appeal, as there are now around three billion gamers worldwide – almost 40 per cent of the global population.

Midas verdict: Keywords Studios has been a phenomenal success story and investors who bought in 2015 have enjoyed a more than 17-fold increase in the share price. They may be tempted to sell out now, particularly following lacklustre numbers from streaming giant Netflix last week. 

But Keywords is still growing fast and Bodson is keen to prove his mettle. Shareholders needing to find some cash as tax and credit card bills loom may choose to reduce their holdings. Others should keep the faith. 

Traded on: AIM Ticker: KWS Contact: keywordsstudios.com or 00 353 1 902 2730 

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Price rises are inescapable and painful, as inflation has hit a 30-year high of 5.4 per cent. Yet small tweaks to how we manage our money can help combat inflation.

1. Sort out household bills 

Some rising bills are inescapable, including energy, council tax and petrol, but not all are. 

If you have not checked your broadband, mobile phone or insurance contracts for a while, there is a good chance that you are overpaying for these services. Insist on a better deal or switch. 

Go through any subscriptions you have to see if there are any you can relinquish. 

2. Switch your mortgage 

Of all household bills, switching your mortgage is likely to be where you can make the biggest savings. 

Homeowners can save £3,500 a year on average by remortgaging from a standard variable rate to a fixed-rate mortgage, according to lender Trussle. Fixing now will also protect you against future interest rate rises.

3.  Invest your savings 

There is not a single savings account that beats inflation. So, if you have savings that you will not need for at least five years, consider investing them instead. 

A stocks and shares Isa is a good starting point, but make sure you opt for a level of investment risk you are comfortable with. 

4. Change where you buy 

The cost of everyday groceries is rising everywhere. However, analysis by consumer group Which? found that prices for a basket of everyday items has risen significantly more at some supermarkets than in others. 

Prices rose 9 per cent last year at Waitrose compared with just 0.59 per cent at Sainsbury’s. So, shop around. 

5. Get a pay rise 

Easier said than done, you may say. But, you might have more bargaining power than you realise. Your employer may be keen to keep you happy if you are harder to replace than usual because of a robust jobs market. Annual pay growth is hovering at about 4 per cent. Not enough to beat inflation, but it goes some way to mitigating its effects. 

                                                                                                                           Rachel Rickard Straus

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MIDAS SHARE TIPS: Kooth works with NHS and other organisations to help sufferers from mental health issues










Tomorrow is Blue Monday, known as the most depressing day of the year. The festive season is well and truly over, credit card bills are trickling in and taxes have to be paid by the end of the month. 

Sadly, an increasing number of people feel blue not just for one day a year but for days, weeks and months at a time. According to the NHS, one in four adults fall prey to some kind of mental health issue at least once a year, even before the pandemic. The numbers have risen since, not just among adults but among children and teenagers too, with current estimates suggesting that around 12 million people across the UK suffer from psychological problems at any given time in the year. 

Kooth works with the NHS and other organisations to help sufferers from mental health issues. Set up in 2001, Kooth provides treatment online, offering a completely anonymous service that includes written advice, peer-to-peer support and one-on-one chats with experienced counsellors. 

Online help: Kooth’s mental health service

Online help: Kooth’s mental health service

The company joined AIM in September 2020 and the stock rose sharply before tailing off in recent months. The decline was unwarranted and the shares, at £3.19, should increase in price as the business expands. 

Kooth’s number one customer is the NHS, which pays the group to offer digital services to mental health sufferers. Originally set up for young people, Kooth has now signed contracts with 90 per cent of UK NHS trusts to help 10 to 25 year-olds suffering from problems including anxiety, self-harm and anorexia. 

In recent years, the firm has added adult mental health services to its roster, recently signing contracts with NHS Trusts in Liverpool, Gloucestershire and Newcastle. Chief executive Tim Barker has spearheaded a move into the business world as well, working with companies so they can offer digital treatments to employees who feel they need it. 

Mental health issues cost businesses more than £40billion a year and they are the second biggest cause of staff absence (after back ache) so there is a big incentive for companies to help workers feel better. Cost is a big issue in the public sector too. Physical counselling sessions are expensive and therapists are in short supply so NHS waiting lists run into millions. Enabling people to access help online saves huge amounts of money and, crucially, the services work. 

Barker, a data expert, has reams of information showing that, in more than 70 per cent of cases, those who access Kooth feel better afterwards. The data is useful in many other ways too, helping the NHS and business customers to spot trends, such as rising anxiety, and act on them. 

Digital treatment may sound impersonal but, for many people, that is a real advantage, because the services are easy to use, free from stigma and instantly available. A trading statement this Wednesday should prove reassuring. Brokers expect Kooth to deliver annual revenues of £16.7million for 2021, a 28 per cent increase over 2020, with further strong gains pencilled in for this year too. 

Kooth is also forecast to move into profit this year and advance rapidly thereafter. Barker is highly ambitious, with a four-pronged growth strategy focused on working with increasing numbers of young people, winning more NHS contracts for adults, signing more corporate deals and expanding overseas, especially in the US. 

Preliminary research suggests that Americans would be highly receptive to Kooth’s services, with mental health a growing problem there as it is here. 

The company also benefits from being a pioneer in its sector, drawing on more than 20 years of experience to tailor treatments to best effect.

Midas verdict: The World Economic Forum forecasts that mental health issues will cost more than £4trillion by 2030. Kooth is tiny by comparison but its treatments provide a way to help people simply, swiftly and cost-effectively. Like Stelrad, Kooth is a UK business at the forefront of its field and, like Stelrad, the group floated to turbocharge growth. At £3.19 the shares are a buy and investors can bask in the knowledge that they are supporting a good cause too.

Traded on: AIM Ticker: KOO Contact: koothplc.com or 020 3984 9337 

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MIDAS SHARE TIPS: You’ll warm to investing in trendy radiators with Stelrad – a company with a history stretching back to the 1930s










Trevor Harvey graduated from Newcastle University with an engineering degree in the 1970s. He has been involved in the radiator industry ever since. 

A Geordie born and bred, Harvey is now chief executive of Stelrad, the UK’s number one radiator group. The company sells six million radiators every year, with market-leading positions not just here but in countries across Europe too. 

With a history stretching back to the 1930s, Stelrad floated on the stock market two months ago at £2.15, since when the price has drifted back to £2.08. The fall, while slight, seems misguided. 

On trend: Stelrad is growing fast as families trade up to a wide range of feature radiators when renovating their home

On trend: Stelrad is growing fast as families trade up to a wide range of feature radiators when renovating their home

A trading update this week should indicate that Stelrad made strong progress through 2021 and, looking ahead, Harvey is determined to deliver further growth, increasing market share, moving into related products and buying up smaller competitors. 

Harvey has been part of Stelrad since 2000 when he led the purchase of Caradon Plumbing from Caradon, then a listed company. Harvey streamlined the business, changed its name to Stelrad and opted to focus exclusively on radiators. 

Since that time, Stelrad has benefited from significant investment, designed to make production nimbler, more efficient and more competitive. The strategy has worked, taking Stelrad’s share of the UK market from less than 40 per cent to more than 60 per cent, with substantial positions overseas too. 

Headquartered in Newcastle, the group operates from manufacturing sites in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, Holland and Turkey. Each site specialises in particular products but they can all do everything, making Stelrad less susceptible to supply chain problems. The Turkish site gives Harvey a particular advantage as costs are in the weak local currency, while sales are in sterling and the euro. Most radiators last for decades so new installations generally take place when properties are built or refurbished. Around half of Stelrad’s sales come from renovations, a growing market over the past couple of years, as people have spent more time at home and opted to splash out on upgrades. 

In the past, radiators were invariably the same size, shape and colour – white. Today, there is a plethora of choice and many consumers are choosing to trade up, with brightly coloured products designed to be features within a room rather than blending into the background. 

Stelrad is a key player in this sector and robust progress is expected, especially as the company has an established and fast-growing online business. 

Stelrad also works with top housebuilders, installing radiators for private homes and social housing, and it works with commercial customers too, from top hotels and restaurants to hospitals and schools, many of which need special safety products, that don’t feel hot to the touch. 

Brokers expect revenues to increase by almost 40 per cent to £275million for the year just ended, rising to at least £300million in 2022. Profits are forecast almost to quadruple to £21million in 2021, soaring to £31million this year. Unusually for a newly listed business, Stelrad intends to pay dividends from this year, with an 8.1p payout scheduled for 2022, rising to 8.6p next year.

Midas verdict: Having worked at Stelrad for more than two decades, Harvey floated this company with one aim in mind – to make it bigger and better. Further market share gains are likely, complementary acquisitions are on the cards, and the dividends provide an attractive yield as well. At £2.08, the shares should deliver long-term rewards. 

Traded on: Main market Ticker: SRAD Contact: stelradplc.com or 0191 261 3301 

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Ten tips for buy-to-let: the essential advice for property investors

  • Our buy-to-let guide explains the essentials of property investment
  • Regularly update guide explains how to assess investments and make a profit
  • Learn about the best locations to invest in property, buy-to-let mortgages, rental yields and what tax changes mean for landlords and investors 

Buy-to-let lost some of its spark in recent years but that might be about to change as new tax cuts and low mortgage rates have caused landlords to flock back to the market.

Landlords suffered a triple-whammy hit this year as three popular tax reliefs were axed or scaled back in April.

But the Chancellor’s recent stamp duty cut coupled with access to cheap loans have led to a spike in investors looking to buy homes.  

If you are tempted, make sure you read our 10 tips for buy-to-let guide, which is regularly updated and has helped millions of landlords over more than a decade.

The recent stamp duty cut has led to a spike in potential landlords looking to buy homes

The recent stamp duty cut has led to a spike in potential landlords looking to buy homes

Why invest in buy-to-let?

A world of low interest rates helps polish the attraction of buy-to-let. Returns on savings are low and mortgages are cheap.

Previously a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge would eat a large amount of your money, while the loss of full mortgage interest tax relief now makes returns more muted than they once were.

But the Government’s recent stamp duty cut has softened this blow.

Earlier this year This is Money revealed that hundreds of thousands of landlords have left the market in recent years as a result of the tax changes of recent years.

And before the pandemic hit a third of private landlords said that they were looking to sell at least one property over the next year.

However, while they will still have to pay the 3 per cent surcharge, landlords will now see their stamp duty bill significantly reduced when purchasing new property thanks to the Chancellor’s measures. 

While many home buyers particularly in the South East and London will undoubtedly benefit, the average landlord purchase will also see big savings.

For example as illustrated in the chart below a £400,000 second home will now only carry a stamp duty bill of £12,000 rather than £22,000.

While this is still £12,000 more than a standard house purchase due to the 3 per cent surcharge, the landlord will still now save £10,000, the same as a standard home buyer would  by not paying any tax at all.

> Work out your potential bill with out stamp duty holiday calculator

As an income investment for those with enough money to raise a big deposit buy-to-let looks attractive, especially compared to low savings rates and stock market swings. 

Mortgage rates at record lows are helping buy-to-let investors make deals stack up.

But beware low rates. One day they must rise and you need to know your investment can stand that test. 

Greater demand from tenants, rents that should rise with inflation and the long horizon for interest rate rises, mean many investors are still tempted by buy-to-let. 

If you are planning on investing, or just want to know more, we tell you the 10 essential things to consider for a successful buy-to-let investment below.

Like any investment, buy-to-let comes with no guarantees, but for those who have more faith in bricks and mortar than stocks and shares below are This is Money’s top 10 tips. 

1. Research the market on buy-to-let

If you are new to buy-to-let, what do you know about the market? Do you know the risks, as well as the benefits

Make sure buy-to-let is the investment you want. Your money might be able to perform better elsewhere. 

In recent years a high-rate savings account would beat most investments. Now rates are lower, but investing in buy-to-let means tying up capital in a property that may fall in value, especially in times of economic uncertainty. 

This compares to the possibility of a 5 per cent annual return from an income-based investment fund, or 3 per cent on a  fixed rate savings account.

Remember that the return from an investment in funds, shares or an investment trust through an Isa will see you escape tax on income and get capital growth tax free. You will also have the ability to sell up quickly if you want.

Ten tips for buy-to-let 

This guide has been helping landlords make the right decision for more than a decade.

It is regularly updated with new information and designed to help you assess buy-to-let properly. 

If you have a buy-to-let question email us at experts@thisismoney.co.uk

The flipside is that you cannot buy an unloved investment fund and set about renovating it and adding value yourself.

Investing in buy-to-let involves committing tens of thousands of pounds to a property and typically taking out a mortgage. 

When house prices rise, this means it is possible to make big leveraged gains above your mortgage debt, but when they fall your deposit gets hit and the mortgage stays the same.

Property investing has paid off handsomely for many people, both in terms of income and capital gains but it is essential that you go into it with your eyes wide open, acknowledging the potential advantages and disadvantages.

If you know someone who has invested in buy-to-let or let a property before, ask them about their experiences – warts and all.

The more knowledge you have and the more research you do, the better the chance of your investment paying off.

 

2. Choose a promising area to invest in property

Promising does not mean most expensive or cheapest. Promising means a place where people would like to live and this can be for a variety of reasons. 

Where in your town has a special appeal? If you are in a commuter belt, where has good transport? Where are the good schools for young families? Where do the students want to live?

You need to match the kind of property you can afford and want to buy with locations that people who would want to live in those homes would choose.

These questions might sound overly simplistic, but they are probably the most important aspect of a successful buy-to-let investment

In most cases people tend to invest in property close to where they live. On the plus side, they are likely to know this market better than anywhere else and can spot the kind of property and location that will do well. They also have a much better chance of keeping tabs on the property.

Yet it is also worth bearing in mind that if you are a homeowner then you are already exposed to property where you live – and looking for a different type of home in a different area might be a good move. 

Landlord hit by triple hit this year

Landlords suffered a triple-whammy hit in April as three popular tax reliefs were axed or scaled back as the new tax year began. 

Mortgage interest tax relief, capital gains tax exemptions for ‘accidental’ landlords – those who held onto homes they once lived in – and letting relief were all cut.

The raid came as the Government fully implemented promises dating back some years, aimed at making it easier for first-time buyers to compete for properties.

You can read how the tax changes will affect landlords in more detail by clicking here.

3. Do the maths on buy-to-let

Before you think about looking around properties sit down with a pen and paper and write down the cost of houses you are looking at and the rent you are likely to get. 

BUY-TO-LET MORTGAGE CALCULATOR

Mortgage calculator

Work out your monthly payments

Buy-to-let lenders typically want rent to cover 125 per cent of the mortgage repayments – often now 150 per cent – and most now demand 25 per cent deposits, or even larger, for rates considerably above residential mortgage deals. 

The best rate buy-to-let mortgages also come with large arrangement fees.  

Once you have the mortgage rate and likely rent sorted then you must be clinical in deciding whether your investment work out?

Don’t forget to factor in maintenance costs. 

What will happen if the property sits empty for a month or two? 

These are all things to consider. Make sure you know how much the mortgage repayments will be and if it is a tracker allow for rates to rise. 

The best buy-to-let mortgages 

Lenders scrambled to pull mortgage deals in the wake of the lockdown but there are still cheap rates out there. 

The cheapest buy-to-let mortgage rates are on two year fixes and for those with a big deposit they are as low as 1.19 per cent from The Mortgage Works and 1.24 per cent from Leeds Building Society.

A five-year fix may be a more sensible plan for many landlords, however, and the keenest rate here is The Mortgage Work’s 1.64 per cent deal.

Those are low loan-to-value mortgages, however, and if you only have 25 per cent to put down the top two-year fix is 1.56 per cent from BM Solutions and the top five-year fix is 1.94 per cent from The Mortgage Works.

Beware big fees though, the deals mentioned above come with charges up to £2,500.

When it comes to getting a buy-to-let mortgage, a good broker will be a great help and can point you towards deals you will actually secure. 

To compare the best deal for your circumstances use our buy-to-let mortgage finder tool powered by broker London & Country

The buy-to-let mortgage you will be offered depends on your circumstances and the lender’s criteria. ideally, they prefer bigger deposits, strong rent to mortgage payments cover and healthy earnings elsewhere.

buy to let best buys

4. Shop around and get the best buy-to-let mortgage

Do not just walk into your bank and building society and ask for a mortgage. It sounds obvious, but people who do this when they need a financial product are one of the reasons why banks make billions in profit. 

It pays to speak to a good independent broker when looking for a buy-to-let mortgage. They can not only talk you through what deals are available but they can also help you weigh up which one is right for you and whether to fix or track.

You should still do your own research though, so that you can go into the conversation armed with the knowledge of what sort of mortgages you should be offered. 

This is Money’s carefully chosen mortgage broker partner London & Country offers fee-free advice, you can find out more and use our comparison tool to find the best buy-to-let mortgage for you here.  

5. Think about your target tenant

Instead of imagining whether you would like to live in your investment property, put yourself in the shoes of your target tenant. 

Who are they and what do they want?If they are students, it needs to be easy to clean and comfortable but not luxurious.

If they are young professionals it should be modern and stylish but not overbearing.

If it is a family they will have plenty of their own belongings and need a blank canvas.

Remember that allowing tenants to make their mark on a property, such as by decorating, or adding pictures, or you taking out unwanted furniture makes it feel more like home.

These tenants will stay for longer, which is great news for a landlord.

It is also possible to take out an insurance policy against your tenant failing to pay the rent, usually known as rent guarantee insurance. This can cost as little as £50, and is available as a standalone product from a specialist provider, or as part of a wider landlord insurance policy. 

6. Don’t be greedy, go for rental yield and remember costs

We have all read the stories about buy-to-let millionaires and their huge portfolios. 

BUY-TO-LET YIELD CALCULATOR

Mortgage calculator

This calculator shows the rental return on your investment property as a percentage of its value

But while you may expect long-term house price rises, experts say invest for income not short-term capital growth.

To compare different property’s values use their yield: that is annual rent received as a percentage of the purchase price. 

For example, a property delivering £10,000 worth of rent that costs £200,000 has a 5 per cent yield. 

Rent should be the key return for buy-to-let. 

HOW TO WORK OUT THE RETURN ON YOUR BUY-TO-LET INVESTMENT

Remember, if you are buying with a mortgage, rent-to-property price yield will not be the return you get.

To work out your annual return on investment subtract your annual mortgage cost from your annual rent and then work this sum out as a percentage of the deposit you put down.

For a £100,000 property that could rent for £500 per month, you would need a £25k deposit and roughly £2,000 in buying costs.

£75k mortgage at 5% interest rate = £312.50

£500 rental income x 12 = £6,000

Difference = £2,250

Deposit + buying costs = £27k

Annual return = 8.3%

Don’t forget tax, maintenance costs and other landlord expenses will eat into that return.

Most buy-to-let mortgages are done on an interest-only basis, so the amount borrowed will not be paid off over time.  

If you can get a rental return substantially over the mortgage payments, then once you have built up a good emergency fund, you can start saving or investing any extra cash.

Remember though, people rarely buy a home outright and they come with running costs, so mortgage costs, maintenance and agents fees must be worked out and they will eat into your return.

You may want to consider whether buy-to-let still beats an investment fund or trust once these costs are taken into account.

Once mortgage, costs and tax are considered, you will want the rent to build up over time and then potentially be able to use it as a deposit for further investments, or to pay off the mortgage at the end of its term.

This means you will have benefited from the income from rent, paid off the mortgage and hold the property’s full capital value. 

7. Look further afield or doing a property up

Most buy-to-let investors look for properties near where they live. But your town may not be the best investment. 

The advantage of a property close by is being able to keep an eye on it, but if you will be employing an agent anyway they should do that for you. 

Cast your net wider and look at towns with good commuting links, that are popular with families or have a sizeable university.

It is also worth looking at properties that need improvement as a way of boosting the value of your investment. Tired properties or those in need of renovation can be negotiated hard on to get at a better price and then spruced up to add value.

This is one way that it is still possible to see a solid and swift return on your capital invested. If you can add some value to a home straight away then it gives you a greater margin of safety on your investment

However, remember to ensure that the price is low enough to cover refurbishment and some profit and that you allow for the inevitable over-run on costs.

A good rule to follow is the property developers’ rough calculation, whereby you want the final value of a refurbished property to be at least the purchase price, plus cost of work, plus 20 per cent. 

8. Haggle over price when investing in property

As a buy-to-let investor you have the same advantage as a first-time buyer when it comes to negotiating a discount.

If you are not reliant on selling a property to buy another, then you are not part of a chain and represent less of a risk of a sale falling through. 

This can be a major asset when negotiating a discount. Make low offers and do not get talked into overpaying.

It pays to know your market when negotiating. For example, if the market is softer and homes are taking longer to sell you will be better able to negotiate. It is also useful to find out why someone is selling and how long they have owned the property.

An existing landlord who has owned a property for a long time – and is cashing in their capital gains -may be more willing to accept a lower offer for a quick sale than a family that needs the best possible price in order to afford a move.  

9. Know the pitfalls of buy-to-let

Before you make any investment you should always investigate the negative aspects as well as the positive. 

House prices are on the up right now but growth has slowed and they could fall again. If property prices dip will you be able to continue holding your investment? 

Meanwhile, rates are low at the moment and that is encouraging people to invest with rent comfortable covering the mortgage, but what will you do when rates rise?

Consider too the standard variable rate you may move to after a fixed rate period. What will happen if you can’t remortgage?

Even in popular areas properties can sit empty. One rule of thumb many buy-to-let investors apply is to factor in the property sitting empty for two months of the year – this gives a substantial buffer. 

Homes often need repairing and things can go wrong. If you do not have enough in the bank to cover a major repair to your property, such as a new boiler, do not invest yet. 

10. Consider how hands-on a landlord you want to be

Buying a property is only the first step. Will you rent it out yourself or get an agent to do so. 

Agents will charge you a management fee, but will deal with any problems and have a good network of plumbers, electricians and other workers if things go wrong. 

You can make more money by renting the property out yourself but be prepared to give up weekends and evenings on viewings, advertising and repairs.

If you choose an agent you do not have to go for a High Street presence, many independent agents offer an excellent and personal service.

Select a shortlist of agents big and small and ask them what they can offer you.

If you are considering going it alone look at where you will advertise your property and where you will get documents, such as tenancy agreements from. 

It really pays to look after your tenants. Do this and they will look after you.

The biggest drag on many buy-to-let landlord’s investment returns is the void period. A time when you don’t have anyone in the property. Good tenants who want to stay help avoid this – and if they move on they may even recommend your property to someone they know.

Keep up with maintenance, make sure your property is a nice place to live and try and build a good personal relationship with your tenants.

This guide was first written in February 2006 and is regularly updated

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Stuck to the fridge before every holiday when I was growing up was my mother’s clothes menu. It was a list of the days away and the clothes and accessories she planned to wear each morning and evening. I thought everyone’s mother wrote one.

Now I do exactly the same, and it is quite simply a brilliant time-saver.

I research the destination, temperatures and likely restaurant venues, then write up my menu and pack outfits in order so I can just take out that day’s clothes from the suitcase.

Make a list of essentials and check it twice for a stress-free holiday (file photo)

Make a list of essentials and check it twice for a stress-free holiday (file photo) 

With the menu I can co-ordinate shoes and accessories that might work across the holiday and keep the packing light in the knowledge that every dress and jacket will be worn.

Does anyone else not unpack? This also saves time and you’re ready to leave at a moment’s notice – albeit with a stuffed dirty laundry bag to fit in.

Wendy Atkin Smith, managing director of cruise firm Viking UK, is a big fan of packing light too.

She says: ‘If possible, I carry only hand luggage. You have to be ruthless when packing, but let this be front of mind while doing so: you can wear things more than once!

‘When I’m travelling on a Viking ship I make use of the free laundrettes, and the ironing service is a real treat, making my outfit repeats effortless.

‘If possible, I carry only hand luggage,’ says Wendy Atkin Smith, the managing director of cruise firm Viking UK (file photo) 

‘If packing light doesn’t come naturally to you, during the holiday I would suggest making a list of the things you wish you’d brought, and at the end a list of what you haven’t used. Save it until next year’s travels and you could be packing light in no time.’

The anxiety we feel before going on holiday centres on forgetting the essentials, says Nicky Kelvin, head of The Points Guy UK.

He adds: ‘To ensure you have everything you need on every trip, build a list of those essentials in the cold light of day when the pressure of a trip is not upon you.

‘I keep my list of 12 essentials in my iPhone reminders, and it’s the last thing I check when I finish packing and again right before I leave the house. Once you’ve used the list once and been on a trip with it, you can be at ease knowing you’re all set for the future, from medicine and sunglasses to gym kit and charging pack.’

Nicky Kelvin, head of The Points Guy UK, keeps a list of 12 travel essentials in his iPhone reminders (file photo)

Nicky Kelvin, head of The Points Guy UK, keeps a list of 12 travel essentials in his iPhone reminders (file photo)

Why drag a suitcase to an airport at all? asks Neil Simpson, The Mail on Sunday’s Holiday Hero. 

He says: ‘Stride past check-in queues and go straight to security. Then ignore baggage reclaim at arrivals and go straight to your hotel, where your case will be waiting. After your holiday, leave your luggage at reception and fly home in style.

‘How? By using a baggage delivery service. Couriers collect your case from home and deliver it to your hotel. Then they bring it back again. The super-rich have done it for years but prices are falling and it can cost just £30 to deliver luggage to hotels across Europe. Firms such as The Baggageman, Luggage Mule, Send My Bag and Sherpr can give quotes.’

With a bag delivery service, couriers collect your case from home and deliver it to your hotel (file photo)

With a bag delivery service, couriers collect your case from home and deliver it to your hotel (file photo)

A debate that rages even among experts is when is best to book your next holiday.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2holidays, is emphatic in his message for 2022: book early.

 Do your research and book with a company you can trust

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2holidays

He says: ‘There is an enormous amount of demand for next summer, meaning that the best rooms in the best hotels in the best destinations are going to be snapped up. The last-minute deal will be more difficult than ever to find.

‘Do your research and book with a company you can trust – far too many companies have let down their customers over the past couple of years. Look for ATOL-protected holiday packages.’

Get ahead with your travel preparation, say the expert advisers at Travel Counsellors.

A spokesman says: ‘Paper is key at the moment – don’t underestimate the need for downloading to paper for swift airport transition. Always check passport validity, as Europe takes passport validity from the date of issue, not expiry.’

Travel Counsellors warns: 'Ring your bank and let them know you’re away to avoid cards being blocked' (file photo)

Travel Counsellors warns: ‘Ring your bank and let them know you’re away to avoid cards being blocked’ (file photo)

Alex Polizzi, pictured, recommends holidaying close to home if you want to make the most of a short time away

Alex Polizzi, pictured, recommends holidaying close to home if you want to make the most of a short time away

Travel Counsellors also recommend using a different email address for each adult and child for Covid test results, as it’s a real time and stress-saver when recording results or proof- of-vaccine status.

They add: ‘Do ring your bank and let them know you’re away to avoid cards being blocked. Ensure you book your airport lounge in advance, as due to Covid many are operating at reduced capacity and fill up quickly.’

And a final pre-flight plan means you’ll have a smooth start to your holiday: ‘If you’re landing late, book your first evening meal at your destination – there is nothing worse than arriving late, unpacking and being left to then sort dinner.’

And if the idea of holidaying abroad is simply too much, take heart from hotelier Alex Polizzi, best known as Channel 5’s Hotel Inspector, whose most recent venture is The Star at Alfriston, East Sussex.

She says: ‘If you want to make the most of a short time away, pick somewhere no more than an hour’s drive from where you live. Minimise travel time and maximise holiday time by booking somewhere lovely that you have never got round to because you consider it to be too close to home.’

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Like so many things in life, there’s plenty about pensions that no one tells you. You might end up finding out too late or even not at all, writes Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor.

Trying to get to grips with pensions by yourself can feel like learning a language without a teacher.

But some of these tips and tricks, which are not common knowledge, could help your retirement prospects.

Pension insider: Our expert reveals tips which are not common knowledge

Pension insider: Our expert reveals tips which are not common knowledge

They won’t all apply to you, as their usefulness depends on your stage in work and life, but some are bound to be worth putting on your January to-do list.

And of course, if you don’t have a pension at all then starting one should come right at the top of the list for you.

1. Have you been lucky enough to get a bonus or inheritance?

Don’t forget you can use ‘carry forward’ to contribute more than your annual allowance to a pension in a year, up to the amount of any unused allowance from the previous three years.

The annual pension allowance is £40,000 or up to your annual earnings, whichever is lower. So being able to potentially fill up your allowance for three years is a really nifty way of getting the most possible tax relief on your pension, particularly if you are approaching the age you can access your pension.

The Government has more on how to do this here. 

2. Are you maxing out your employer contributions?

Check as you may not be getting the most out of your workplace offer. Some employers will match or even double-match your contributions beyond the 8 per cent auto-enrolment minimum – sometimes significantly more.

It’s a good idea, if you can manage the extra and it is on offer, to effectively double up on what you put into your pension through employer matching up to the maximum – it’s free money from your employer that will be waiting for you when you retire.

If you don’t earn enough to be auto-enrolled (£10,000 is the threshold earnings for auto-enrolment), you can still opt in voluntarily to a pension scheme – contact your HR department to ask for this and to find out what level of matching is available.

Becky O'Connor: Some employers will match or even double-match your contributions beyond the 8 per cent auto-enrolment minimum

Becky O’Connor: Some employers will match or even double-match your contributions beyond the 8 per cent auto-enrolment minimum

3. Will your employer pay contributions into a Sipp instead of your workplace scheme?

Some employers will now pay workplace pension contributions into a personal pension of an employee’s choice.

So, if you have always wanted to build your own investment portfolio but felt constrained by having to stay with your workplace scheme, it could be time to ask your HR department if this is an option.

There’s nothing stopping you moving old workplace schemes to a Self-Invested Personal Pension (Sipp) in the meantime, provided there are no restrictions in place, but when it comes to your current one you really want to keep your valuable employer contributions.

4. If you have a Sipp, consider setting up regular investing

This way, your contribution will be automatically split between a range of investments designated by you and in the proportions you choose, so you don’t have to go in and manually choose your investment allocation every time you make a contribution.

Setting up regular investing can help minimise the risk that your contribution is sitting in cash for longer than necessary and is being put to work in the market.

What you need to know each week: The This is Money podcast 

Want to know the most important things you need to know about money each week, what has caught our interest and what made us laugh? Listen to the weekly This is Money podcast. 

Press play to listen to this week’s full episode below, or listen (and please subscribe you like the podcast) at iTunes, Acast and Audioboom or visit our This is Money Podcast page.

5. Don’t forget to claim higher or additional rate pension tax relief

You can do this via your tax return if you are paying into a personal pension. Basic rate tax relief is added automatically for you, but you’ll have to claim the rest back yourself via your self-assessment tax return.

So, if you earn £60,000 and want to contribute £10,000 into your pension one year, £2,000 of that will be basic rate relief and then the remaining £2,000 you are entitled to will have to be claimed back from HMRC directly through your return.

You’ll need to do this by January 31 2022 for relief being claimed for the previous 2020/2021 tax year.

How does salary sacrifice work? 

Arrangements like this are a nice little earner for many workers and their employers. Find out more here.

6. Get the most out of salary sacrifice

If you are approaching the next tax bracket and make pension contributions via salary sacrifice, upping your pension contribution can mean you don’t end up paying the extra income tax.

For example, the higher rate tax threshold is £50,270. If you get a pay rise from £50,000 to £53,000, you’d have to pay 40 per cent income tax on the £2,730 above the threshold.

If you put your pay rise into your pension, you don’t pay higher rate income tax now. This tip could come in handy with tax thresholds frozen but wages rising, dragging more people over the thresholds.

7. Avoid a tax grab when you first access your pension

For those starting drawdown at retirement, there is a way to avoid being put on a scary emergency tax code and paying an unnecessarily large amount of tax on your first bit of income.

HMRC has not yet figured out a way to avoid clobbering people in this way on their first withdrawal, which forces them to reclaim the overpaid tax and causes delays to them accessing their cash.

A better way around it is to take a small initial sum when you start accessing your pension of, say, £100, to avoid a tax bill on the whole amount you want to take out.

What should you do if HMRC makes an ’emergency’ tax raid on your pension cash? 

Our pensions columnist Steve Webb explains here. 

Your second withdrawal can then be for the amount of income you require and this should be taxed at the correct rate.

If you do end up paying emergency tax, call HMRC as soon as you can to get a refund.

8. Is your pension beating inflation?

Inflation is running extraordinarily high at the moment at 5.1 per cent, so there’s a chance that returns on your pension are not, in fact, beating inflation right now.

The goal is real returns, not just returns. But don’t panic – it’s something to keep an eye on but not necessarily act on as pensions are long term investments that should beat inflation over several decades.

If your pension fund performance consistently fails to beat inflation, that might be a sign that your risk level needs a review and you may need a higher proportion of equities in your portfolio to get back on top of price rises.

However, that’s not guaranteed and returns from equities can fall at any time, too, or fail to rise as much as inflation.

9. When you are young, it makes sense to opt for higher growth funds

Many young people choose low risk funds for their work pension, but these are unlikely to grow as much and may not even beat inflation.

Check what risk strategy your current pension is following and if you are 10 years or so from retirement and it is low risk, consider choosing the medium or even higher growth strategies instead.

Any dips in the stock market should have enough chance to recover and for you to end up in pocket.

Investment growth: Are you taking the right level of risk for the outcome you want in retirement?

Investment growth: Are you taking the right level of risk for the outcome you want in retirement?

10. Even if you are approaching or in retirement, your risk level could be too low

It depends when you need the money. With drawdown, you can leave money you don’t intend to take out of your pension for a decade or more invested in a higher proportion of equities, if you wish.

The old guidance to de-risk and move into cash as you approach retirement no longer universally applies, although it might if you are planning on buying an annuity or accessing all of your cash early on in retirement.

So, older investors should also re-evaluate their risk levels and check they haven’t de-risked too soon.

11. Make sure you don’t have more than you need in cash savings

Inflation is running high and interest rates remain low despite the recent small rise to 0.25 per cent.

If you don’t need some of the money you have in savings for emergencies or for several years down the line, a more productive home for that money is likely to be a pension or an Isa.

What is the MPAA? 

One in four savers dipping into their pensions are also still paying in too and risk a shock tax bill – find out how to dodge this trap here. 

If you’re already drawing an income from your pension, you can continue to pay in, as long as your contributions don’t exceed the ‘money purchase annual allowance’ (MPAA) of £4,000, which is the limit for those who have already started taking an income.

12. Check whether your current pension fund is in sustainable investments

If it isn’t and you would like it to be, check whether there is a sustainable investment option on offer.

If there isn’t, feel free to write to your pension provider to register your demand for one.

In the meantime, you can create your own sustainable pension portfolio with a Sipp, which allows you to invest in sustainable funds, trusts and ETFs, to align your pension with the goal to limit global temperature rises.

13. Pay into Sipps for children and grandchildren

The Bank of Mum and Dad is surprisingly versatile and can fund pensions as well as property.

If you want to make a big difference to the future financial security of your loved ones, then payments into Sipps can be a wonderful gift.

If they aren’t earning yet, the contributions will receive basic rate tax relief and up to £3,600 a year can be paid in.

But if your adult children happen to be higher rate taxpayers and you are a basic rate taxpayer, the contribution will receive tax relief at their marginal tax rate rather than yours, so your money is going further than it would if you were paying into your own pension.

Pension age move from 55 could disrupt early retirement plans 

Many fortysomethings are in the dark about the change. Find out what to do if you are affected here. 

You need the account number and name of the account holder, plus the relevant form to pay in with.

14. Could you retire early?

Why not find out if this aspirational goal could possibly be within your reach. If it is, consider ploughing some of your retirement money into Isas, too.

Isas are the secret to early retirement, because you can access these before your ‘normal minimum pension age’ (NMPA) and income from them is tax-free. There’s a £20,000 a year Isa allowance.

The minimum age for accessing work and personal retirement savings will rise from 55 to 57 in 2028, so take that into account.

15. Talk to your partner about their pension

The couple that plans together, parties in retirement together. What’s in your partner’s pot? How will you plan your joint finances when you are retired and potentially drawing an income from different sources?

Have you got joint plans for different pots? What are your joint priorities for retirement? Travel? Leaving a big inheritance? An open dialogue between couples can make managing retirement finances much easier.

16. Do you need to draw a fixed income or can you vary pension withdrawals?

Many people on fixed incomes will struggle with rising living costs this year.

What is pound cost ravaging?

Find out ways to dodge this nasty trap here, including halting or varying withdrawals. 

If you are drawing an income from your pension and are considering withdrawing more than usual to cope with rising living costs, check whether your new withdrawal rate is sustainable.

If not, consider reverting back to a lower amount if and when costs ease up a bit.

You don’t need to keep withdrawing the same amount from your pension every year and many people need less as they get older.

17. Want financial advice but baulk at the cost?

There is the option to take tax-free payments out of your pension to cover the cost of advice, through something called ‘the pension advice allowance’.

The tax-free amount is up to £500 a session, it’s available at any age and you can use it three times in your lifetime but only once per tax year.

The £500 will not be taxed on withdrawal from the pension pot, regardless of your income.

18. Are you over 50 and want free pension help?

If you are approaching the age at which you can access your pension and are confused by the complicated array of options available to you, book an appointment with Pension Wise. 

It’s a very useful free service from the Government for over-50s and it will get you past ‘Go’ with your planning.

19. Are you eligible for pension credit?

If you are on a low income in retirement, check whether you are entitled to pension credit. If you are, your income could be topped up to a more liveable amount.

Could you claim pension credit? 

Are you one of nearly 1m eligible pensioners not claiming credits worth thousands of pounds a year? Find out more here. 

You can be in receipt of some state pension and even have some savings and still apply. The Government has more details here. https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit

20. Fill out your ‘expression of wishes’ form for your employer

This will make sure your pension goes to the right people or charities when you die. Also remember to update expression of wishes forms for old pensions.

This is important because your pension is not part of your estate and so isn’t technically covered by what is in your will.

21. Get a state pension forecast

Check your entitlement based on your current National Insurance contributions to see if you are on track for a full state pension here. 

How to get your pension on track

Do you have no pension? Find out how to set up one from scratch here.

If you are worried about your pension and whether you will have enough, read a full 10-step guide to sorting it out here. 

To get started, investigate your existing pensions. Broadly speaking, you need to ask schemes the following:

– The current fund value

– The current transfer value – because there might be a penalty to move

– Whether the pension is in a final salary or defined contribution scheme

– If there are any guarantees – for instance, a guaranteed annuity rate – and if you would lose them if you moved the fund

– The pension projection at retirement age.

You can use a pension calculator to see if you have enough – find This is Money’s here.

You should add the forecast figures to what you anticipate getting in state pension, which is currently £179.60 a week or around £9,300 a year if you qualify for the full new rate. 

Get a state pension forecast here.

If you are tempted to merge your old pensions, check out some tips on how to decide here.  

If you have lost track of old pensions, the Government’s free tracing service is here. 

Take care if you do an online search for the Pension Tracing Service as many companies using similar names will pop up in the results.

These will also offer to look for your pension, but try to charge or flog you other services, and could be fraudulent. 

If you are in your 20s, we have a special pension guide here.  Self-employed people can find out how to sort out their pensions here. 

Women, who tend to miss out because they get lower pay and do unpaid caring work, can find out how to increase retirement savings here.

Find an adviser

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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MIDAS SHARE TIPS UPDATE: Cash in on making dealing with red tape easier with tech expert Ideagen










Every year, businesses, governments and other organisations spend more than £20 billion on technology that allows them to comply with multiple regulations, from environmental to financial to medical.

Ideagen specialises in software that makes these tasks simple and effective. 

The group has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014 and the shares have soared, from 33p when Midas first recommended them to £2.70 today. 

Based in Nottingham, Ideagen has around 7,500 customers worldwide, including more than 250 UK and American hospitals, nine of the top ten accountancy firms and three-quarters of all major drug companies, as well as numerous aviation and defence groups. 

Opportunity: Ideagen has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014

Opportunity: Ideagen has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014

Customers tend to stick with the business for years. Its software has won multiple awards and is widely recognised as efficient and easy to use. 

However, chief executive Ben Dorks has no intention of resting on his laurels and last month raised £103million on the stock market to accelerate growth both organically and through buying new businesses. 

The company has made its ambitions clear. Brokers forecast revenues of £92million for the year to April and Dorks is aiming for £200million of sales by 2025, with £70million coming from acquisitions. 

The regulatory software market is full of small firms, many of which are keen to sell out, particularly as the sector becomes more complex and the rules grow more demanding. 

The pandemic has also encouraged business owners to consider their future, with several opting to sell to larger operators. 

Ideagen is well positioned to benefit from these trends and Dorks has a track record of buying firms and integrating them successfully into the group. 

Profits are rising steadily too, with £24million predicted for this year, increasing to £31million in 2023. 

Dividends have increased consistently over the years and a payout of 0.4p has been pencilled in for 2022, rising to 0.5p next year.

Midas verdict: Investors who bought Ideagen shares in 2014 have already made an eightfold return on their money and may feel as if now is the time to sell. But at £2.70 the shares have significantly further to run. 

Regulations are increasing in almost every sphere of business life and companies have to comply. Ideagen makes the process as painless as possible and the shares are a long-term hold. New investors could even snap up a few at the current price and celebrate this home-grown winner in the technology market. 

Traded on: AIM Ticker: IDEA Contact: ideagen.com or 01629 699 100 

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The holidays are over, the drinks cabinet is depleted and it is early January, the time when many of us resolve to change for the better. 

Gym memberships shoot up and sports halls are crowded with enthusiasts determined to lose weight, get fit and develop that six-pack they have always wanted.

In February and March, attendance falls off and by April, memberships are being cancelled at pace. 

The pattern is not just bad news for gyms, it is also a problem for governments and health services worldwide. 

Triumphant: 4Global has helped bid for and run global events including the 2016 Olympics where Britain’s women’s relay team won bronze

Triumphant: 4Global has helped bid for and run global events including the 2016 Olympics where Britain’s women’s relay team won bronze

According to research, around 30 per cent of the global population is physically inactive. 

In the UK alone, around 60 per cent of adults and one in three children are overweight and obesity is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year, a tragedy for loved ones and an immense cost burden on the NHS. 

But it does not have to be like this. A recent report suggested that encouraging the over-65s to be more active would save the health service around £12billion a year, almost 10 per cent of the annual budget. 

And Sport England says that every £1 spent on persuading people to exercise delivers a £4 return.

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible and appealing to young and old, rich and poor. 

The company joined the stock market in November, the shares are 84p and they should increase materially as the business expands. 

The company was founded in 2002 by Eloy Mazon when he was just 27. Armed with an MBA from Imperial College and a strong interest in sport, Mazon set up 4Global to help cities and other bodies to bid for, organise and benefit from major sporting events.

The firm has since worked on virtually every summer and winter Olympic Games, including London, Rio and Tokyo, as well as several World Cups and other football championships. 

Sometimes 4Global is involved from the beginning. Sometimes the group is brought in to manage crises. 

Increasingly, the firm helps cities and government bodies to ensure that games leave a lasting legacy, not just in terms of buildings and stadiums but for local people too. 

Much like New Year resolutions, big sporting events often spur physical activity, which equally often tails off within a few months.

Mazon was keen to find out why and, after working on the London Olympics, he and his team began to accumulate data from local authorities, gyms and other sports centres showing patterns of activity, from weightlifting to cycling to Zumba classes. 

Today, 4Global has amassed more than a billion individual pieces of data, mostly in the UK but also in Europe and North America. 

While the information is completely anonymised, it provides a clear and constantly updated picture of the types of people who are active, what they are doing, where they are doing it and when. 

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible

4Global helps public and private sector bodies to make physical activity more accessible

Critically too, the data highlights areas filled with idlers, be they senior citizens, young children or people from poorer backgrounds. 

The information is valuable to public sector bodies and private companies alike and 4Global’s customers include Swim England, the Rugby Football Union, Manchester City Council and the Jamaican government, as well as several gym groups and leisure centres. 

In the past few months alone, Mazon has secured a £4million contract with Sport England, a £370,000 contract with the government of Peru and a lucrative deal with the city of Los Angeles to maximise the legacy of the 2028 Olympic Games. 

The company has also been commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to assess the social impact of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games this summer, while numerous other organisations are turning to Mazon for guidance and advice. 

Looking ahead, 4Global has a pipeline of contracts worth more than £100million over the next four years. 

The group’s data can help gyms work out where to build new facilities, it can help cities plan infrastructure that will encourage locals to exercise and help local authorities work out how best to attract older citizens and children to gyms and fitness classes. 

Profits of around £325,000 are forecast for the year to March, more than tripling to £1.1million next year and soaring to more than £2million in 2024, as the group wins new deals here and overseas. 

Mazon owns just over half of 4Global’s shares so he is strongly motivated to deliver rewards to investors.

Midas verdict: In 2009, Eloy Mazon was struck with a vicious virus that left him in a wheelchair. Today, he is a committed runner, cyclist and swimmer with a sideline in weightlifting. His determination and drive permeate 4Global and the shares, at 84p, are a buy. 

Traded on: AIM Ticker: 4GBL Contact: 4global.com or IFC Advisory on 020 3934 6630 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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