UPDATE 1-Savills profits rise on strong Asian, London demand

LONDON, March 14 Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:36am GMT

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LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - British property consultancy Savills said pretax profits rose 21 percent in 2012, beating analyst expectations, helped by strong deal activity in Asia as well as buyer demand for plush offices and homes in central London.

Savills, which competes globally with CBRE Group and Jones Lang LaSalle, said on Thursday gross underlying profit before tax for the year to the end-Dec rose to 60.8 million pounds ($90.7 million) from 50.4 million in 2011.

Group revenue increased 12 percent to 806.4 million pounds.

Analysts expected Savills to post pre-tax profits of 57.5 million pounds and 774.4 million pounds in revenue, Thomson Reuters data showed.

The growth was led by Asia Pacific, where government efforts to cool housing markets in areas such as Hong Kong drove buyers towards commercial property.

Savills also said it had benefited from strong appetite for office property in London, which has been a target in recent years for investors seeking safe havens from global economic turmoil. Profits in the UK grew 11 percent.

In continental Europe where it posted losses, the company said concerns over the potential break-up of the euro zone and the weak economy depressed capital markets, leading to a weaker performance in Sweden, Italy and Germany.

"We have made a strong start to 2013, particularly in the UK and Asia, and we expect to make further progress across the group in the year ahead," said Savills' chairman Peter Smith.

"We anticipate delivering continued improvements in our businesses in continental Europe and the U.S. although we are mindful of the risk of further weakness in some of these markets," he said.

Savills raised its dividend for the full year by 19 percent to 16 pence per share.

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