Countrywide warns over earnings hit as Brexit knocks housing market

Estate agency Countrywide has warned of a £5 million hit to first-half earnings as it said Brexit uncertainty was affecting Britain’s housing market.

The embattled group – Britain’s biggest chain of estate agents – said Brexit worries were having an impact on both the residential and commercial property markets as buyer confidence has tumbled.

It saw total group income fall 3% to £140.3 million in the first quarter.

Shares in the firm fell more than 2% as it warned it is now expecting underlying earnings to fall by around £5 million in its first half, having previously expected a drop of between £3 million and £5 million.

Countrywide said: “The ongoing uncertainties surrounding Brexit continue to weigh heavily on consumer confidence as a whole.

“For Countrywide, this uncertainty is affecting the residential and commercial property markets, particularly in London and the South.”

But the group – which is behind the Bairstow Eves and Hamptons brands – said it its full-year out-turn is set to be “broadly in line” with expectations as cost-cutting will offset the market woes over the second half.

The figures follow a difficult 2018 for the group, which saw full-year losses widen to £218.2 million from £207.3 million in 2017.

It was also forced to tap shareholders as part of an emergency £140 million fundraising plan to put it on a more secure financial footing, and was recently slapped with a £215,000 HMRC fine for money laundering failures.

The chain has been struggling to recover from a botched restructuring in 2015, which led to four profit warnings.

It is also under pressure over non-executive director Caleb Kramer over missed board meetings ahead of its annual general meeting on Tuesday.

Shareholder advisory service Glass Lewis is urging investors to vote against Mr Kramer’s re-election.

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