Harry Hill, the former Countrywide chief executive, has described his old company as “going backwards” following the publication of its half-year figures to the City.
Yesterday Countywide - still Britain’s largest estate agency by revenue - announced a nine per cent fall in half-year earnings, blaming the general election uncertainty for part of the drop.
Hill quickly took to Twitter to comment: “Once upon a time Countrywide had about 10% of the UK home sales market. Now it appears to have less than half that and still going backwards.”
In recent years Hill, a founder of Rightmove, has had involvement with the easyProperty online agency - he resigned from its board last year - and with the commercial property portal MoveHut, and with the conveyancing company In-Deed Online.
His brief is to prepare the company for expansion to 500 offices nationwide, after its successful launch on the AIM market this summer.
The current senior management of Countrywide, meanwhile, has not been ruffled by the latest figures from the company, nor by the company's share price slide of around six per cent during yesterday.
Alison Platt, its new chief executive, says: “The first half of the year saw depressed activity in the UK residential sales market as UK consumers held back from making decisions pending the outcome of the most uncertain General Election in a generation. However, the benefits of our strategy to diversify the Group’s revenue streams were underlined by Countrywide’s ability to ride those challenges with 50 per cent of our profits derived from sources independent of the UK housing transaction market.
“Particularly pleasing has been our ability to show resilience through a tough market and at the same time to make strong headway in implementing our Building our Future strategy. Our focus for the strategy is on growth and building a business which is bigger, because it is better” she says.
Jeffreys, the financial analytical consultancy, has given the Countrywide figures a thumbs up, however, describing it as short term pain for long term gain.
“The size of the prize is 'a target to double the size of the business by 2020'” says a Jeffreys report.
“The easy path would have been to run the Group for cash and tweak rather than revamp the strategy. However the Group believes that the UK residential market offers many exciting opportunities from increasing consumer estate agency and lettings market share to capitalizing on the opportunities in the institutional Private Rented Sector and B2B markets” says Jeffreys.