Connells Group says it is the UK's largest estate agency group by market share - and that's before the Countrywide acquisition is taken into account.
In a report released this morning, alongside the annual figures of its parent company the Skipton Building Society, Connells Group claims a 5.5 per cent market share - the largest of any UK agency group. This is despite a 16 per cent fall in exchanges in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and temporary housing market closure.
Other key figures in this morning's report reveal that the agency is the largest new homes operator in the UK with nearly 8,000 new homes sold in 2020. Its mortgage services section performed strongly as well, generating almost £11 billion of lending last year despite fewer house sales.
However, lettings income slipped four per cent over 2020 as a whole - attributed to the two month spring lockdown - while surveying services income slumped 15 per cent, again because of Coronavirus restrictions. Conveyancing transactions were down 20 per cent.
The company reports pre-tax profits of £51.8m (2019: £50.1m), EBITDA of £80.5m (2019: £76.3m) and total revenue of £375.0m, down 12 per cent on the previous year (2019: £426.4m).
As the figures major on Connells' performance in 2020, little is said about the acquisition of Countrywide agreed at the turn of this year.
But Group chief executive David Livesey does comment: "Countrywide’s shareholders have voted overwhelmingly in support of the transaction and completion is expected to occur by the end of the first quarter of 2021, subject to FCA approval and the sanction of the Court. This is an exciting next chapter for us and we very much look forward to welcoming our new colleagues into the Group.”
He continues: “We believe in a well-invested high street branch network that utilises the best in technology, and we look forward to investing in and enhancing the Countrywide business for our shared success. We enter 2021 in good shape, with Connells Group financially strong and well poised to meet the opportunities and any challenges in the market.”
Looking back on 2020 Livesey adds: "In March, Connells Group closed its branch network and head offices in line with government instructions, swiftly transitioning to remote working and operating flexibly to minimise impact and provide a seamless service to clients and customers. The group’s guiding principle throughout its pandemic response has been to do what is right for its people and customers, ensuring their health, safety and wellbeing.
"To protect the business during this uncertain period and safeguard all jobs for the long term, the group cut back on capital and discretionary spending, the Executive Board waived their 2020 bonus entitlement, and the business made use of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with 78 per cent of its people placed on furlough. The group safeguarded colleagues’ incomes during this time, going above and beyond the government minimum, paying all its people 100 per cent of basic salary and commission.
"The group rapidly planned its recovery, investing heavily for a swift, safe and Covid-Secure return to operations as the housing market reopened. The business saw a positive recovery on the initial reopening of the housing market in May, with improved activity levels buoyed by pent up demand and the stamp duty holiday.
“We are immensely proud of our people, how they have adapted to and supported the new ways of working together and the sense of unity throughout a year of national crisis,” says David. “It has been a massively uncertain time for everyone and we are grateful for their unswerving commitment to the business. With their support, we have pulled together to secure the safety of the team, to look after our customers and safeguard the company.”