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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Countrywide: could it really be snapped up by Foxtons or Connells?

Rumours abound over the future of Countrywide, which lost further share value on Friday, closing very slightly down on the day at 14.08p.

It has now lost over 90 per cent of its share value in the past 12 months.

Some financial sector figures are suggested the company, or at least its agency side, could be purchased by rival firms.

As a result of its estate agency problems, much of the Countrywide group’s financial strength now comes from its mortgage side - mortgages arranged by value in the first half of 2018 came to £9.5 billion, considerably up on the comparable 2017 figure of £7.9 billion and one of the few optimistic highlights from the company’s interim figures released earlier this month.

Countrywide also claims to be the UK’s largest single mortgage brokerage and also owns the network Mortgage Intelligence, while its valuations division - Countrywide Surveying Services -  manages panels for many of the UK’s largest mortgage lenders.

Against that landscape, mortgage publications have over the weekend started speculating on Countrywide’s future, particularly its agency brands.

Mortgage Strategy quoted Harmony Financial Services director Imran Hussain saying: “There will be many investors keeping an eye on Countrywide to see what comes up for sale or where they may close branches. I would not be surprised if the likes of LSL, Spicerhaart and Connells who are their biggest rivals in the estate agency world may look to buy up parts of the Countrywide empire, to expand in parts of the country where they do not have as much of a presence.”

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould told the same publication: “Countrywide could be a takeover target given its scale, although you expect any potential suitor to wait until after the shareholder meeting on 28 August to see if the emergency fundraise is approved.

“Whether there are any buyers is perhaps harder to fathom given the pressures estate agents are under from a soft housing market and structural disruption from online players such as Rightmove. Foxtons could be a possibility because, unlike Countrywide, it has a reasonable balance sheet and might want to diversify out of the London market.”

On August 2, when Countrywide gave details of its £140m placing - the heavily-discounted fund-raising exercise to help pay off some of its debt - its newly-appointed group managing director Paul Creffield insisted to Estate Agent Today that some of the firm’s so called crown jewels, such as high-end brand Hamptons International, were not for sale. 

This came despite speculation across much of the industry that its best known brands - notably Hamptons and John D Wood - could fetch more sold singly than as part of a wider sell-off, should that ever happen.

Meanwhile this week sees the first of a number of key dates regarding Countrywide’s placing: applications to invest must be received by 11am on August 17, which is Friday.

Poll: Will Countrywide be acquired by a rival - or live to fight another day?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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    Countrywide have had this coming for a very long time. They have a managing director for almost every reason out there, more cheifs than Indians. Super top heavy on management and they have poor old school management. Their chairman is also chairman at royal mail and they are in trouble too, get the picture? Basically countrywide haven't moved with the times. They tried with Alison platt but they fought her in the boardroom and their back to basics plan is rubbish as they haven't a clue what to do. Look estate agency in the UK is old and full of sharks. Where else apart from selling cars and such can you leave school buy a suit and help negotiate someone's biggest life investment? The business is filled with very dodgy people who have made a lot of money scamming the British public and it's high time they were taught a huge lesson. I say let countrywide sink and from the depths rise a better cleaner industry.

  • Simon Bradbury

    HI Stephen - so pleasing to see a factually based comment that doesn't rely on stereo-types!

  • Simon Shinerock

    Hi Stephen, I bet you don’t like lawyers either, or perhaps you do, anyway respect for your objective analysis and unbiased conclusion :)

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    Interesting but I think Connells certainly and Im sure Foxtons do not now have the internal managerial strength having cut back and lost some key players of late. Foxtons makes more sense and the Spicerhaart group is an interesting one as there are big gaps in their network and I know they have made some movements North of late-they also seem to be ahead of the curve in terms of Social marketing,have a growing surveying business and a good FS offering with capacity.They invest heavily back into the business as opposed to having to report big profits being owned by one individual. Realistically though I really can't see anyone taking on the whole unless they do so and then break it up quickly after which is far more likely.
    Ultimately, who wants all those lease liabilities and duplicated high street offices.And the key as always would be staff retention and having a team capable of being parachuted in.
    No one has mentioned PB ?

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    Mike Ashley seems to like burning money on dying dinosaur high street businesses. Perhaps he will buy Countrywide?

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