BOURNEMOUTH-based letting and estate agency Martin & Co has posted record results in its first year as a PLC.

The franchise business said revenue had increased 16 per cent in 2013.

The group expects to open its 190th office in the next few months.

It moved from lettings into estate agency in 2012 and 97 of its offices were offering a sales service last year. It expects to have 130 offering the service by the end of this year.

Chief executive Ian Wilson said: “Market data says the number of lettings instructions available to agents shrank by nine per cent last year. Despite this we grew our managed portfolio by 2,400 tenanted properties, of which fewer than 500 were added through acquisition.

“The rest was organic growth, with our offices winning market share at the expense of other agents.”

One reason for listing on the stock market was to raise funds to help franchise expand faster.

Mr Wilson said: “As a group we are no longer dependent on the support of high street banks for our expansion. We now have access to the capital markets.

“Franchisees have tried to buy businesses and been told by their local bank that funding was available only to be turned down at the last moment.

“That is all behind us. If you are part of Martin & Co, then you have a PLC backing you.”

He also commented on the strategy behind the decision to diversify from being a lettings agency.

“I’d be a very worried letting agent this year if I could see house prices rising and sales volumes picking up,” he siad.

“Landlords, particularly in the Midlands and the north, where prices fell furthest in the crash, might be thinking it’s time to sell if prices get back to 2007 levels.

“We are defending our portfolio and income by offering these landlords an estate agency service, and hopefully their buyer will be another investor. But we are also opportunistically taking advantage of a fast recovering sales market and offering the professional Martin & Co approach to regular sellers and buyers.”

The group is looking to partner with existing independent agents and bring their businesses under the Martin & Co brand. Two independent agents have joined and will launch in the next few weeks.