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Estate agency group Countrywide suffered from the declining health of the UK housing market at the start of the year, with revenues falling 13 per cent after a sharp drop in transactions.

Revenues at the group totalled £162m in the first three months of 2017, down from £187m in the same period last year. The company suffered from particularly tough comparisons as buyers had rushed to complete transactions before tax changes in the first quarter of last year, but the company said underlying performance had also worsened.

Countrywide said it had seen a “continuation of the declining market trends” seen in the fourth quarter of last year, with a 29 per cent fall in house sales exchanges on a like for like basis. It said the declines were in line with its expectations.

Last month the company, which owns Britain’s largest network of residential agents, was forced to cut its dividend and announce a new share issue to reinforce its balance sheet as lower transaction levels since the EU referendum caused its profits to drop by more than half.

Countrywide said it is reaping the benefiting from the “additional financial flexibility” the share placing provided, and is making progress with cost-cutting measures and moves to increase its online presence.

Alison Platt, Countrywide chief executive, said:

I am pleased that we have maintained the pace of our transformation agenda during the first quarter.

In the first quarter of the year market trends were as anticipated. The snap general election called for June 8 2017 is not expected to significantly alter the overall level of market transactions for 2017 and we still expect the market to be around 5 per cent below 2016 levels. Our financial performance has been consistent with our plans and on this basis, we maintain our current financial outlook for the full year.

In a separate announcement today, Countrywide also said it had appointed the former head of the Financial Ombudsman Service as a new non-executive director. Countrywide chairman Peter Long said Natalie Ceeney “has a track record of leading transformation and digitally enabled change in complex and dynamic environments”, and said her skills will “complement the board” as it continue to work on its turnround.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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