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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Purplebricks and Countrywide lead 2019 share price flops

For the stock market generally, 2019 has been a positive year - but a few high profile agencies and associated companies have bucked the trend and seen spectacular share price falls.

The FTSE-100 started the year at a little over 6,730 and is ending at well over 7,630 - an extremely healthy rise of around 13 per cent, despite what can only be described as extraordinary volatility for the UK’s political and economic landscape.

The FTSE-250 (consisting the 101st to 350th largest listed firms) has done even better, rising from around 17,600 at the start of 2019 to very nearly 22,000 today.

Likewise many agency and property-related firms have done equally well in the past 12 months:

Rightmove: this is perhaps the stand-out share price winner of 2019, in our industry, rising a remarkable 50 per cent or more, soaring from below 425p a share to around 650p. Although beaten by others in terms of percentage rise, Rightmove is very much a ‘UK only’ company which many believe is highly exposed to the fortunes of the British housing market and estate agents’ bottom lines. For all the criticism, the brickbats, the threats of agents departing - Rightmove’s 2019 has been remarkable.

Savills: up just over 65 per cent this year, but helped by its international exposure and diverse portfolio of consultancies and expertise as well as sales and rentals, which makes it less vulnerable to the volatility of the British housing market.  

Belvoir: With a string of acquisitions and infrastructure investment to help its franchisees, this has been a strong year for the firm which has seen its share price rise from 87.5p a year ago to around 145p today.

Hunters: Another successful franchise model, with modest expansions and acquisitions in 2019 seeing its share price rise from around 40p to 70p in just a year - although this takes it back to the late 2016 level.

Foxtons: At first sight a 60 per cent share price rise in 2019 is remarkable - but over five years it’s dropped 50 per cent. Even so, the agency’s share price has risen solidly since September as light is seen at the end of the London housing market tunnel.

LSL Property Services: Despite a high profile branch closure and restructuring programme - or perhaps because of it - the share price has risen around 14 per cent.

But in addition to these and other successful listed agencies and associated companies, there have been spectacular losses this year too:

Purplebricks: Despite a rally in the second half of the year (its share price is up over 25 per cent since July) the controversial company’s full-year share price performance means it has lost some 15 per cent over 12 months - or over 65 per cent in two years. Despite a change of management, the promise of new fee structures being trialled and the collapse of two catastrophic overseas gambles, the jury is still out on whether the company will survive.

Countrywide: Having hit a low of 3.25p in summer it is of some consolation to shareholders, perhaps, that it ends 2019 at 7.4p, not too far below its January figure of 8.25p. It’s now well over six years since its 630p high and while the reign of Alison Platt as chief executive saw the biggest collapse, share price performance since her departure has been stunningly poor. The share consolidation process agreed by Countrywide shareholders just after Christmas will radically improve the look of the share price in 2020 - but that is a technical change, not a reflection of greater confidence in the company by existing or future investers.

OnTheMarket: Having started the year around 90p and ending little over 70p, it’s been another strange year for the challenger portal’s share price. It hit 130p early in 2019 - remember it launched two years ago at 165p - but despite repeated claims of success in converting agents from freebie deals to market rate, the City seems stubbornly unconvinced.

What will 2020 bring? After two days of trading at the start of this week, expected to be thin because of the holiday period, trading for 2020 begins at 7am on Thursday. 

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