Countrywide has revealed a major hold-up in its supposedly "vital" sale of its commercial arm - and it is now seeking alternative buyers.
The sale of the commercial division, for £38m, was described by the company as vital to its long-term well-being.
A statement this lunchtime says that on November 29 it had agreed the sale of Lambert Smith Hampton to Monaco-based John Bengt Moeller with a completion date by January 20 this year.
"Following protracted efforts to effect completion and after agreeing a revised timetable to complete on more than one occasion, Mr Moeller has failed to complete the transaction in accordance with the final timetable set for completion by 12.00 on 11 March 2020" says a statement from Countrywide.
The company continues: "[We] continue to engage with Mr Moeller and wishes to effect completion as soon as possible. However, given the significant delay caused by him, the Company has notified Mr Moeller that it will now also explore alternative options for the sale of LSH, and is considering its legal options to pursue Mr Moeller for damages and costs from continuing delay in completion. The Company will update shareholders as appropriate in due course."
Countrywide says it has entered into discussions with another interested party.
Meanwhile in addition to this statement, Countrywide has issued a trading update, saying:
Total Group income for the year was £498 million (2018: £515 million), a highly resilient performance in a challenging market and after absorbing the loss of tenant fees income of c. £12 million. The Group is seeing the benefits from its 'Back to basics' turnaround Plan, with continuing operations having returned to growth in profitability. Adjusted EBITDA(2) for the year ended 31 December 2019 is expected to be ahead of both the Board's expectations and ahead of the prior year.
The Group has seen a positive mood swing in public sentiment through the early part of 2020 which we have seen reflected in a strong start in agreed sales which are ahead of the Board's expectations through February 2020. Whilst we have seen some softening in recent days as a result of Covid-19, it is too early to assess that impact. We expect full year results to be reported later this month.