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Countrywide grows mortgage distribution as poor sales and lettings trigger £200m loss

  • 08/03/2018
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Countrywide grows mortgage distribution as poor sales and lettings trigger £200m loss
Countrywide’s financial performance in 2017 took a battering with a £200m loss due to poor sales and lettings income, which overshadowed good results from its mortgage advice and conveyancing operations.

In total the firm completed £17.7bn of mortgages last year through its Mortgage Intelligence, Mortgage Bureau, and The Buy to Let Business groups – up 12.7% from £15.7bn in 2016.

Mortgage Intelligence generated £10.2bn of gross mortgage distribution, up 15% from £8.8bn, the Buy to Let Business grew completions 30% to £1.5bn, from £1.1bn, while new build specialist Mortgage Bureau grew business 21% to £800m, up from £700m.

Countrywide noted that the remortgage sector, representing approximately 39% of the overall market, experienced 9% growth, while the first-time buyer sector, representing approximately 23% of the market, grew by 11%.

Meanwhile the buy to let market continued the decline which started in Q2 2016.


£190m writedown

Overall group income fell by 9% to £672m principally as a result of the disappointing performance in sales and lettings businesses, with a loss of £208m – including £192.3m write down in respect of goodwill.

Despite good network performance, financial services business revenue declined 1% due to lower referrals from sales and lettings.

Sales income fell 24% with the impact widespread across all regions and despite average house prices rising by 3%, Countrywide’s average fee fell by 5% due to the competitive market.

The volume of houses exchanged nationally was broadly flat at around 1.2million, but the number of houses exchanged by Countrywide outside of London fell by 17%.

And adjusting for branches closed in Q4 2016, the number of exchanges still fell by 10%.


Online offer does not work

The property services firm launched its cut price online offering last year but has already admitted this approach “does not work”.

It added that it needs to define “what digital means for us as an organisation”.

Lettings services fared slightly better than sales but still suffered a 4% reduction in properties under management to 62,646, coupled with an 11% fall in the number of lets agreed, resulting in an 8% decline in lettings income.


No quick fix

Executive chairman Peter Long said the strong financial services and B2B areas in the group had been overshadowed by the poor performance in core sales and lettings but that it believed these units were fixable.

However, this may not be a quick fix.

“We have entered 2018 with our pipeline significantly below that of 2017,” he said.

“We have begun to take steps to build back the pipeline to the 2017 level but this will take time. We therefore anticipate that in the first half of the year this will result in a reduction in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around £10m.

“At this time, it is unlikely that the shortfall in the first half will be recovered,” he warned.

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