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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 14:21 GMT
Money website's profits rise 57%
Nick Servini
BBC Wales business correspondent

Chief executive Simon Nixon
Simon Nixon - not an internet expert or a 'workaholic'
Price comparison website has announced a 57% rise in pre-tax profits.

They are the first set of figures from the company, which employs nearly 700 people in Flintshire, since it floated last year.

It comes after a volatile few months which has seen the share price drop around a quarter amid concerns about the credit crunch.

Pre-tax profits for last year were 53m, which just exceeds forecasts.

Total sales were up 55% to 163m. 91 million people visited its site last year.

The company, based in Ewloe, was launched in 1999 by its chief executive Simon Nixon.

It now describes itself as Britain's biggest finance price comparison website, covering money, insurance and travel sectors.

Mr Nixon, who was raised in north Wales and is now worth around 480m, it is not a bad achievement for a college drop out.

In times of recession where they have to tighten their belts they come to a price comparison website because every penny counts
Simon Nixon, chief executive

At the age of 19 he then became a financial adviser and spotted a gap in the market advising brokers about the best mortgages on offer.

However his break came when he spotted the potential of the internet in the mass market and launched

"It wasn't until about 1999 when Freeserve launched with free internet access that I could see there was a real opportunity for us.

"I could see that the internet was going to explode in a massive way. That barrier to people going on had just been removed.

"In the past I think a lot of customers had been ripped off potentially by unscrupulous mortgage brokers that had been commission hungry.

"That's only a small percentage but customers still wanted transparency in the marketplace."

'Consumer apathy'

The biggest problem he had at the start was generating enough traffic.

He said the big portals such as Freeserve and weren't interesting in putting on their sites.

But he said the turning point came when he struck a deal with the Daily Mail, and the company began to get noticed.

The 40-year-old admits he is not a computer expert and instead relies on the 300 internet specialists who work for him.

He says he's not a workaholic but admits to spending hours on the internet looking at his own site and the competition.

Mr Nixon compares this to the chief executive of a supermarket walking the floors of his shop.

The company has been hit by the credit crunch but he believes it is well placed to deal with any downturn in the economy.

"One of the big issues for price comparison is consumer apathy," he said.

"People basically are quite well off or have been pretty well off the last three or four years and they can't be bothered comparing and finding the best deal on their mortgage or their loan or their credit card.

"And I think in times of recession where they have to tighten their belts they come to a price comparison website because every penny counts."

Simon Nixon is interviewed on Wales@work on BBC Radio Wales at 1832 GMT on Tuesday.

Money website share price falls
26 Jul 07 |  Business
Online firm to expand
13 Aug 03 |  North East Wales
Websites 'may hurt credit scores'
19 Sep 06 |  Business

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