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Countrywide Civil War: company hits back at shareholder’s claim

Countrywide has rejected a claim by one of its biggest shareholders that it does not engage with investors over future strategy of the beleaguered company.

Yesterday Catalist, an investor company owning over 10 per cent of Countrywide’s shares, wrote a long open letter to the agency’s outgoing executive chairman Peter Long.

It outlined a three pronged alternative strategy and referred to earlier correspondence with Long which had been greeted by a decision ‘not to engage’ according to Catalist.

However, a Countrywide spokesman told Estate Agent Today last evening: “We are in regular and constructive dialogue with all our main shareholders and will be updating the market in due course when we publish our half year results.”

Meanwhile Countrywide’s share price yesterday rose just over nine per cent, perhaps in the light of alternative strategies being outlined by shareholders.

In mid-July another significant investor in Countrywide, Jeremy Hosking, wrote to the company urging it to gift 15 per cent of its shares to staff - roughly the equivalent of £600 each - to give them a stake in its future and confidence they would share in any performance improvement.

Hosking, quoted in the Sunday Times last month, said he wanted Long to apply “maximum pressure” on the company’s remuneration committee to act on the proposal.

Yesterday’s demands from Catalist were more radical still and concentrated on three areas:

- Focus on Estate Agency: “Consolidate +50 brands and c.700 branches to core brands on key high streets and regional super-hubs, as part of a new group strategic focus on Estate Agency”;

- Harness Technology and Content: “Develop an in-house digital ecosystem to support agents, end reliance on third party software, and enable Countrywide to monetise the unrivalled content, data and transaction volumes it controls as the UK’s largest agent and residential landlord, as well as new digital revenue streams”;

- Monetise Unrecognised Value: “Deleverage and fund investment by releasing capital from non-core businesses representing +£300m of unrecognised value.”

The full Catalist letter to Long is here.

  • Chris Arnold

    Turn themselves into a media company. So they they control the message, the platform and the distribution. "Don't build your home on rented land".


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