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UPDATE 1-Savills sees tough first half after posting lower 2020 profit

(Adds company comment, background)

March 11 (Reuters) - Real estate adviser Savills reiterated on Thursday that transactional activity would remain suppressed in the first half of 2021, after reporting a fall in annual profit as COVID-19 restrictions hammered its high-margin commercial deal business.

The global real estate market, barring the residential and warehouse segments, has struggled to recover from the pandemic-induced meltdown, with activity in the commercial space remaining muted.

“We currently expect transactional activity to remain broadly suppressed in the first half of 2021 with improvement commencing in some individual markets thereafter, with the potential for progressive recovery through the balance of the year,” the company said in a statement.

Revenue dropped 9% to 1.74 billion pounds ($2.43 billion) in the year ended Dec. 31, 2020, dragged by a 19% slump in its transaction advisory business.

It recommended a final dividend of 17 pence per share, citing the resilience of its less transactional services business in 2020, where revenue dropped just 1%.

The London-listed company, which has operations in about 70 countries, said underlying profit before tax declined nearly 33% to 96.6 million pounds.

$1 = 0.7175 pounds Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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