Co-op bosses say the company is now the largest provider of probate services in the UK after six months in which profits grew steadily.

In the first half of this year, the legal services business posted a profit of £800,000 – up from £200,000 in the same period in 2017. Revenue increased from £12.3m to £16.1m.

The company says it was buoyed by the acquisition of Simplify Probate, the UK’s second largest provider of probate, in April. According to its results statement, published today, this purchase increased capability to support more bereaved families, to the extent that the Co-op is now the UK’s largest provider.

The legal service division has been incorporated into the company’s funeral and life planning business, where sales increased by 5% to £174m, but operating profit dropped 7% to £27m due to a loss on property disposals.

‘Our results show continued progress and strong underlying growth in revenue and profit across our business during 2018,’ said Matt Howells, managing director of Co-op Legal Services and Life Planning. ‘The results are in line with our ambition to grow our life planning business which, following our acquisition of Simplify Probate earlier this year, we have made good progress with.’

The Co-op’s progression as a legal services provider has been closely followed since it emerged in the initial cohort of alternative business structures licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2012.

Losses soared in the first couple of years as an ABS while staff numbers were cut in the personal injury department. The business has picked up, albeit slowly, in recent years, with a greater emphasis on probate and wills work, and investment in its online service.