Countrywide has revealed a mysterious delay in the sale of its commercial arm, Lambert Smith Hampton - a sale considered crucial for the future of the company as a whole.
Some weeks ago the company insisted the sale must go through, even holding a highly unusual meeting of shareholders to approve the deal between Christmas and New Year.
At that time the company said the cash from the sale would “significantly improve Countrywide's capital structure following receipt of gross cash proceeds of £38m and allow the Countrywide Group to materially reduce its net debt.”
But today a shock statement to shareholders says:
On 29 November 2019, the Company announced that it had agreed to sell LSH to John Bengt Moeller with completion due subject only to the approval of Countrywide's shareholders. Shareholders approved the transaction on 27 December 2019 and the Company commenced the process for completing the transaction.
Completion of the transaction has been delayed due to John Bengt Moeller being indisposed during January and due to logistical difficulties relating to the transfer of the requisite completion monies. We have been re-assured by Mr Moeller that completion is imminent. The Company continues to work with Mr Moeller to resolve this situation urgently and is taking all necessary steps to achieve completion as soon as possible. The Company will update shareholders as appropriate in due course.
In December, in another unscheduled trading statement, Countrywide surprised the industry by describing LSH as "non-core” and saying it would be sold privately.
"The sale of the Lambert Smith Hampton commercial business strengthens the group. Once completed, we believe that the group will be in a more advantageous position in our core residential market" said Countrywide executive chairman Peter Long at the time.
LSH is one of Britain's oldest and most respected commercial properties names, founded in 1773 but only a part of Countrywide since 2013.
At that time Countrywide paid £34.1m in cash for LSH which has 33 offices and 1,400 employees.