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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Mystery of Countrywide’s "indisposed" Monaco buyer deepens

The mystery of why Countrywide’s crucial sale of its commercial arm has failed to go through as scheduled deepened over the weekend.

Friday’s highly-unusual announcement that the shareholder-backed sale of Lambert Smith Hampton had hit an unexplained delay led share prices to fall by five per cent at one point; they closed the day two per cent down.

The £38m cash sale - described by Countrywide’s senior management as being essential to give the company as a whole “a more advantageous position” - is to a Monaco-based real estate entrepreneur, John Bengt Moeller.

The Times reports that the Lambert Smith Hampton shares have been assigned to a UK-registered corporate structure named LSH Invest Limited, which is 100 per cent owned by Moeller’s Great Global Holding. 

Great Global Holding is a holding company for a number of property-related businesses, including London-registered MSS Real Estate, an operation that raises money for UK property funds; MSS Real Estate itself reported a loss of just under £55,000 for the year to the end of last March.

The paper also reports that there was no comment about the stalled LSH deal over the weekend from Countrywide’s key advisers - Barclays, Jefferies bank and the law firm DWF.

In an interview with Estate Agent Today in early December, Countrywide’s group managing director Paul Creffield insisted that the LSH sell-off was a one-off but vital for the overall health of the business as a whole. 

When asked by EAT whether this sell-off would lead to the disposal of other supposedly non-core Countrywide activities - like mortgages, other financial services, surveys and the like - Creffield insisted ‘No’.

“The other departments in Countrywide are all integrated into the branch network and the residential activities. Everything that remains is core. There are definitely no plans for any further sales” he stated.

Friday’s announcement by Countrywide, which we reported here, claimed that Moeller had been “indisposed” and unable to access funds. 

“We have been reassured 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” Countrywide said.

Countrywide's shares, having crashed 97 per cent over the previous four years, were staging a very modest recovery in the first weeks of 2020 - until Friday’s news. They ended the day 2.1 per cent down.

Poll: Will Countrywide survive 2020 intact?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    As I understand it and I may be wrong, Lambert Smith Hampton is being disposed of to gain capital, to pay the bank, who will in return allow a sub £100M facility of funding to keep loss making Countrywide afloat.

    If the sale of LSH fails, what level of liquidity does Countrywide have? And would the bank become extremely reluctant to continue to support the venture.

    Even if the deal goes ahead, (and some say the sale price favours the buyer), given that Countrywide are unlikely to post huge profits in the near future, is it not time to call time on the doomed Countrywide back to basics three-year plan?

    Put another way, if those in the c-suite at Countrywide, instead of drawing hundreds of thousands each year, come profit or no profit, had to rely upon managing the business to get their salaries, would they be less inclined to sell off the family silver, and actually put together a strategic plan that would head the company back into making profit.

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    Watching the coronavirus potential impact on global economy.. buyer just holding thier nerve to see if the situation worsens.

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