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Written by rosalind renshaw

Countrywide this morning confirmed that it is to float on the London Stock Exchange, after releasing its results for last year and confirming its place as the UK’s number one estate agency.

It said that over the last six years – it left the stock market in 2007 when it sold into private hands just before the crash –  it has been transformed from a collection of estate agencies into a ‘cohesive property services group’.

The float will raise around £200m in new shares and used to repay debt.

Despite mixed results in its core estate agency business – revenue overall declined by 1% to £211.2m, although in its Hamptons brand revenue bounced up 6% to £14.7m – the company has notably expanded.

While closing some under-performing branches, it opened 20 others. It also acquired 13 lettings businesses last year and opened 176 new lettings outlets. As a result, lettings recorded a record performance, growing 12% to £86.5m. Countrywide also announced a current budget of £20m for further acquisitions this year.

Profits before tax and other costs (EBITDA) were also up: in estate agency, they were up 9%, to £15.8m. In Hamptons, they were up 5%, to £15.5m. But the real star was lettings where they soared 41%, to £24.4m.

Overall, the group recorded a 6% rise in revenue to £529.8m last year, up from £509.1m the year before, with a highlight being financial services, where revenue grew 4% to £64.7m. The group arranged 54,000 mortgages last year, claiming 10% of the mortgage intermediary market.

The surveying and valuations arm of Countrywide also grew, by 8% in revenue, while conveyancing income went up by 14%.  

Grenville Turner, group chief executive, said: “In a broadly flat housing market, albeit with some encouraging signs, we are delighted that our focus and drive in the lettings division – a key driver of our business – has continued to deliver strong momentum resulting in record financial performance in 2012.

“Buy-to-let landlords remain a rising force in the sector, as they seek to capitalise on the growing rental market as young adults and families struggle to get on the housing ladder.”

He went on: “The exact timing of a recovery in the UK residential market remains difficult to predict; however, we have seen an increase in mortgage approvals and an improvement in sentiment in the sector. Government initiatives to boost mortgage lending appear to be kicking in, as the Funding for Lending scheme helped lenders to lower interest rates and improve availability in the past few months.

“Over the last six years, Countrywide has been transformed into the UK’s largest integrated property services group. We capitalised upon significant growth opportunities via strategic acquisitions and high street branches to enjoy leading market share in all our core businesses. We are now embarking on a new chapter in our growth plans with continued investment in key strategic areas.

“We expect continuing resilience in house prices nationally and continued improvement in lender sentiment in 2013.

“Our estate agency division is positioned for a market recovery and our lettings division is well placed to benefit from the growth trend in the rental market.

“In Countrywide we have built a diversified business with strong prospects irrespective of any housing market recovery.

“With this in mind we view 2013 with confidence and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Comments

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    Is there a law against linking two seemingly unrelated stories to explain the motives behind either?

    No

    If you don't like us fools figuring out what is going on don't be too quick to publish PR stories that make it obvious.

    • 21 February 2013 15:49 PM
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    I'm not going to talk about RM any more, I for one have harped on about them far too much since I started visiting this forum and it is time to get back to the task in hand, what I will say however is this.

    @smoke&mirrors

    . decamp to Zoopla or a.n.other portal or perhaps an agrregator that doesn't charge agents but lists our stock for free and instead makes revenue from associated advertising? (This is my personell 5yr prediction ) RM's market share would fall off a cliff - literally overnight - the public would equally quickly stop visiting/listing and find the alternative, assuming there was one,

    We are already here waiting for you, making you aware of this fact is the reason I have been posting.

    Decamp to Zoopla, that surely would be out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    If you want it for free it's there you just have to take it.

    • 21 February 2013 14:47 PM
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    Why has a story on CW turned to idiots posting about RM!? It has all been said already fools.

    • 21 February 2013 12:28 PM
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    Every agent that subscibes to RM is funding a company that provides a platform for advertising but additionally provides a platform for their competitors to compete with them?

    • 21 February 2013 11:52 AM
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    Float

    Hope it sinks, and that they get eaten by the likes of themselves - sharks that is!!!!

    • 21 February 2013 09:58 AM
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    too

    • 20 February 2013 15:25 PM
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    Sorry Ray that will not work.

    If you were still in business would you fund a company to compete with you?

    If you are right and I am wrong I do not have a problem so long as Agents have prepared themselves in case I am right.

    There are simply to many Estate Agents, with the additional competition fron online Agents who can come and go for the cost of a URL, plus passive intermediaries I believe the industry is going to change. The beneficiaries will not be the public, they will not be traditional Agents but they will be those who think they understand Estate Agency and think they understand Prooperty Management and are connected enough to profit.

    • 20 February 2013 15:24 PM
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    @"....Rightmove are actively positioning themselves to give themselves control of the market by providing themselves with the ability to take instructions direct from the public....".

    Agreed, but add the words 'as well as agents'?

    • 20 February 2013 14:21 PM
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    One could argue that with Agents failing to recognise what is going on RM quite rightly think that the decision makers in Estate Agency are indeed a bit Educationally challenged. It isn't so much arrogance as their experience leads them to feel you are bound to be swayed by herd argument (they expect you to follow the herd and for you to fear being an individual)

    @smoke and mirrors, history shows us that even the most audacious events (World war II is a good example) can happen with a bit of planning AH didn't just magic up an invasion force, a Navy or an Airforce. the preparation began years befor.

    Disguised as a service to Agents RM are picking and training their forces

    • 20 February 2013 13:12 PM
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    @----- points noted.
    Personally I believe that the RM threat is sig' overstated - their strength is also their achillies heel - they are only the force they are whilst they hold 90% of the market ( stock) b Miles and those above him who make the decisions are very aware of this and know that the moment they were to start to even try to take listings direct their customer base would en masse decamp to Zoopla or a.n.other portal or perhaps an agrregator that doesn't charge agents but lists our stock for free and instead makes revenue from associated advertising? (This is my personell 5yr prediction ) RM's market share would fall off a cliff - literally overnight - the public would equally quickly stop visiting/listing and find the alternative, assuming there was one, or if there wasn't then they would go to an agents own website. RM are many nasty things, but they are not stupid enough to try that, they dont need to - they have growth a MASSIVE margin only one semi credible competitor and 90% market share ! - Why would anyone in their right mind want to risk all that by trying to become a poacher and a game keeper simultaneously when it so obviously wouldnt work for them

    • 20 February 2013 12:08 PM
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    @ smoke and mirrors on that Rightmove note.
    I Have given notice to Rightmove. Your are right, they don't care a jot about the customers.
    There whole way of trying to persuade me to stay with them so far, is to repeatedly tell me how stupid, I am for leaving them.

    Their arrogance, knows no bounds.

    • 20 February 2013 12:06 PM
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    getting out while the going is as good as it is going to get is still cashing in. Getting what cash one can for the chips left at the end of the night is better than waiting till that has gone too.

    We are agreed that this is a muppet wooing exercise but that is what Grenville is being paid to do and if folk are daft enough to invest of the back of terms such are biggest good luck to them.

    In respect of mortgages I didn't say mortgages are impossible to get hold of but the hoops mortgagors have to jump through are still to onerous for most to want to bother. The general hype is intended to keep people renting.

    Re; Polishing Turds, I am independent through and through but I will still give Grenville his due for managing to achieve a Satin Lustre on that corporation.

    The point of my post was not to blow smoke up Grenville's arse but further prompt traditional Agents to wake up and take action to protect their futures while they can.

    Rightmove currently do not have any asset other than a powerful public awareness, DPG/Zoopla the same. Agents currently own the data and the goodwill but Rightmove are actively positioning themselves to give themselves control of the market by providing themselves with the ability to take instructions direct from the public. Traditional Agency is funding its own demise.

    • 20 February 2013 10:59 AM
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    @--- "cash in" really - what a load of rubbish - having paid £1.1B in 2007 I'd hardly call returning £200m - most of which will be used to repay debt - as "cashing in"
    & where are you posting from - where I am lenders are falling over themselves to lend to creditworthy homeowners/buyers example 5 yr fixed rates at 2.7% !!

    You are broadly right about lettings, this will continue to remain boyant but typically only at the bottom end ( London aside ) due to the lack of apetite for high LTV lending however we are already seeing increasing numbers of renters starting to buy as confidence has started to return and as stock levels rise and supply exceeds demand we will and are seeing a cooling in rental values.

    I dont know Grenville Turner, but you would be naive to think that he has anything else on his mind other than trying to woo enough idiots into believing that investing their and their clients hard earned £ into C/Wide is a really good idea.
    What I do know is that for all my 30 years in this industry Countrywide, in all there various guises, have been a shining example of much of what is bad and no matter how you may try you simply cant polish a t--d.

    • 20 February 2013 10:32 AM
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    Interesting statement talks about turn over but no mention about profit which is what we are all in business for?

    • 20 February 2013 10:28 AM
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    I am sure this story, the reasons behind it and the consequences behind it is going to pass by the very vast majority of those of you who read it.

    Grenville Turner is one of the sharpest blokes in the industry and does nothing without good cause, certainly he is a bloke who has earnt my respect.

    There is a lot of blah blah blah in there but please stop and re-read the story and consider what is going on and how that is likely to affect your business in the future.
    The private investors are getting out while they can, they have put together something saleable and are looking to cash in.
    Put that together with the Rightmove talent camp and what do you end up with? Early indications of wholesale change in the UK Estate Agency industry.
    @Those of you with Lettings portfolios do not be tempted to flog them off because that is where the future is.
    The lenders are not lending to homeowners but are lending to themselves and their own to build portfolios.
    While (non property) Investments are nailed to the basement floor the only place to get low risk modest yields is property which is why anyone with any sense is buying what they can while they can.

    P.S HPC crew please don't even bother posting, even if you dubious claims of cash in the bank are true, your naivety means your posts are not worth the bandwidth used to upload them, it would be nice to have a story where agents can discuss a topic without the distraction of your usual bile and jealousies.

    • 20 February 2013 09:43 AM
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    Why dont they Tout Door Knock and call me card for offers, in the normal manner

    • 20 February 2013 08:11 AM
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