Countrywide earnings halve amid ‘challenging’ housing market

Embattled estate agency Countrywide has seen earnings halve in 2018 after sales woes amid a “challenging” market.

In a full-year trading update, the group said it expects to report underlying annual earnings of £33 million, down from £65 million in 2017.

It comes after total group income dropped 7% to £627 million and following a £2 million in writedowns.

The group – which is behind the Bairstow Eves and Hamptons brands – said with the £2 million of writedowns stripped out, underlying earnings were in line with its expectations.

Countrywide endured a tough 2018 that saw it tap shareholders as part of an emergency £140 million fundraising plan to put it on a more secure financial footing.

It had started the year with a 21% deficit in its UK sales pipeline.

In its latest update, the group said: “We are encouraged by the progress we have made in our strategy and turnaround plan and in the growth in the register and the pipeline in the UK.

“Nevertheless, we remain cautious about the market outlook for 2019 and continue to closely monitor market conditions for any potential impact arising from the wider political and economic environment.”

Countrywide cheered “significant” progress in its “Back to Basics” plan, which was announced last August to rebuild industry expertise in sales and lettings, to support growth and improve other income.

It said the register of properties available for sale had risen 9% year on year, while the pipeline of UK agreed sales awaiting exchange of contracts was now 5% higher.

But the difficulties at the start of the year saw sales and lettings income drop 9% to £329 million, with a 16% fall in sales and flat performance across lettings.

Income in it business-to-business arm was £213 million, down from £221 million in 2017.

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