Three high profile estate agencies have warned investors of difficult times ahead as the Coronavirus crisis grinds on, despite all experiencing strong starts to the year.
Hunters, LSL and Belvoir have all released updates to the City, all of which warn that their ability to plan ahead is nobbled by the ongoing uncertainty about when the UK will return to normal trading conditions.
Belvoir says it will not pay final a dividend to shareholders for 2019, following in the footsteps of Rightmove last week, and that the crisis will have a significant impact on trading this year.
But the estate agencies group, which is the head lessee for hundreds of franchised branches across the UK, says it has adequate cash in the bank to survive the downturn.
“We believe that in operating a franchise model, we have both the agility and capability to emerge from the crisis in a good position to capitalise on future opportunities within the sector, and return to growth and winning market share,” says CEO Dorian Gonsalves.
LSL has also decided not to pay shareholders a final dividend for 2019, saving it £7.4 million.
But the company remains bullish about its future. Its chairman, Simon Embley, says: “We are facing unprecedented market conditions caused by COVID-19 [and] are taking prompt decisive self-help actions across the Group to preserve liquidity, reduce costs and optimise the business for the short and medium term. “We are well positioned to deal with the disruption caused by COVID-19, with a strong balance sheet and a capable and experienced management team across the Group.”
Like the other two, Hunters says it enjoyed a robust start to 2020 before the virus took hold.
“Despite a strong start to the year, [Coronavirus] will lead to a material adverse impact on our performance in 2020,” says CEO Glynis Frew. “It is too early to quantify exactly what this impact will be, but in the short term we expect that revenues from residential sales will be most affected, which represented approximately 25% of revenues in 2019.
“We would expect franchise and lettings revenues to be more robust, which together represented 66% total revenues in 2019.”