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Agencies & People

2016 Countrywide results reveal £15.8m spent on branch closures, and profits down by 59%

But successful mortgages, lettings and surveying businesses, plus a ZPG windfall, mask moribund sales results.

Nigel Lewis

Countrywide PLC has this morning revealed its results for 2016 following what Chairman Peter Long describes as a “difficult year” for the company.

Highlights of the Countrywide results include revenue that edged up half a percent to £737m, profit before taxation that nosedived by 59% to £19.5%, a £32.8 million windfall from the sale of ZPG shares and a strong performance by its mortgages, surveying and lettings businesses.

Chief Executive Alison Platt (pictured, below) reveals that the company focussed on cost cutting last year to the tune of £10m, although its restructuring costs included spending £8.1 million on redundancies and £15.8 million on branch closures.

This has included a ‘management delayering’ that has saved £5 million and headcount ‘rationalisation’ in marketing, finance and new homes that has saved £1.5 million.

Countrywide also says it saved £3.5 million by consolidating branches in 180 locations and involving 214 branches.

alison plattAlison Platt blames the poor performances of Countrywide’s sales businesses on uncertainty caused by the EU Referendum result as well as the recent Stamp Duty changes, which she says have both led to falling volumes of properties for sale.

The number of homes sold via its brands dropped by 1% outside London to 50,891 but in the capital it was much worse – down by 14% year on year to 10,423.

Lettings did well as a burst of landlords buying properties to let came on to the market before the April deadline last year, which Alison says increased market volumes. The number of properties it has under management increased by 12% year on year.

Digital roll-out

Countrywide has also been busy with its ‘hybrid’ digital roll-out, the results reveal. Four phases were completed during 2016 and it now covers 25% of its business, or 200 branches. Countrywide also says its new digital platform has driven 2,700 online accounts to be opened and 1,000 valuations booked.

The results document also reveals what the future may hold for Countrywide. This will include fewer agent brands offering both hybrid and traditional sales and letting packages. It also wants to offer its services across a ‘multi-channel’ range of different devices from laptops to smartphones.

“Countrywide is evolving at pace, with a clear strategy to create a business with a cost base that better reflects market conditions and a differentiated, customer centric offer available to customers across the UK,” says Alison Platt about the results.

March 9, 2017

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