Countrywide says there will “almost certainly” be no more acquisitions of agencies or other firms for the group over the rest of 2016.
In an interview with Estate Agent Today, Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt says her group has ruthlessly used acquisitions to expand into the areas and price markets in keeping with its long-term objectives, especially in the lettings sector.
In March Countrywide made its last agency acquisition, of the Finders Keepers letting agency based in Oxford and operating across that city and the Cotswolds.
Platt says Finders Keepers - which is almost 45 years old has eight offices and 100-plus staff members - is “massively impressive” and presented Countrywide with a rare opportunity to buy an independent “so perfectly in line” with the firm’s long-term strategy.
However, that deal was sealed in March and there has been no acquisition since, and nor will there be for the rest of 2016, in the sales or lettings agency sectors.
“There were no agency acquisitions in the second quarter of the year, largely because of uncertainty in the build-up to the EU referendum, and that pause and prudence will continue for the rest of this year” says Platt. She says uncertainty over the UK economy after the Brexit vote, and some volatility in the London and high-value property markets have led to the decision.
The only possible exception, she says, would be if there were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an agency in line with her long-term aspirations for the company to double its total business volumes by 2020.
“It would have to be along the lines of the arrangement to get Hamptons International - before my time at the company - which was an absolutely corking deal, and probably the best ever acquisition for Countrywide” says Platt.
Despite the moratorium on new purchases for the next five months, Platt insists that acquisitions remain a key route in the longer term for doubling the groups’ business, especially but not exclusively in lettings.