Countrywide shares fall by 20% following huge 2017 losses

The state of the UK’s ailing property market has received another blow today as the UK’s largest estate agent chain, Countrywide has seen shares fall by more than 20 per cent since the market opened this morning, following publication of it’s 2017 results statement showing a statutory loss of £208.1m in 2017.

The news comes on the same day that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have reported the 11th month of falling buyer enquiries and another fall in available housing stock.

Countrywide summed up the statement with the title “2017 – a disappointing year”.

The statement shows that income fell 8.8 per cent to £671.9m, while earnings per share fell from 8p in 2016 to an 89.6p loss in 2017.  The company also reported a 20% drop in home sales, although they claimed that the Hamptons International and John D Wood brands performed well in a “challenging London market”.

Countrywide executive chairman, Peter Long, admitted to Estate Agent Today that there were major mistakes in the company’s ‘retail revolution’ strategy.  He said:

“It’s not a retail business. It’s a trading business and it’s all about the fundamentals – lead generation, listing and selling properties, building up inventory, giving the branches resources” 

“We lost clear visibility of this as a business, and as a result we lost a lot of good industry people. I’m extremely sorry about that. The business became more centralised, with central costs impeding and stopping the branches operating as they should have been” he said.

Long believes the company will be able to turn the business around by going ‘back to basics’, but given the market response with falling share price, news from the RICS, and news earlier from lender Halifax, who reported that annual house price growth had had fallen to it’s slowest pace since March 2013, many in the industry are questioning what the future holds for the UK property market.

The Prime Minister made new promises at the the National Planning Conference this week.  With results like this from the UK’s largest estate agent, let’s hope the promises turn to action, and fast.


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