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It's all about lettings now, Countrywide tells shareholders

It's all about lettings now, Countrywide tells shareholders

Countrywide has told shareholders: “It’s all about lettings.”

In its first interim management statement since returning to the stock market, the property chain which is the UK’s largest estate agent and mortgage broker, shone the light almost exclusively on its lettings business.

With income down 1% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, it said comparisons could not really be drawn in the sales and mortgage market because of last year’s Stamp Duty holiday.

However, it insisted that first quarter income this year of £121m was in line with expectations.

Countrywide says it has continued its strong performance in lettings, which is where its key focus remains.

There have been five acquisitions of lettings businesses so far this year, at a cost of £4.5m, with a strong pipeline of prospective acquisitions. Altogether, Countrywide expects to spend £20m on buying lettings businesses this year.

Countrywide has also opened four new Hamptons branches this year – in Sevenoaks, Amersham and Canary Wharf, plus a new lettings business in Paddington.

Countrywide said that mortgage availability had been increasingly lately, with lower pricing and a reduction in the size of deposit required. It said government initiatives had created “positive momentum” around the residential property market, but the effect of this on transactions would only become apparent in the coming months.

It said that the next three to six months would be key to establishing whether housing transactions would pick up.

Chief executive Grenville Turner went out of his way to express pride that Countrywide had won best large agent in the UK for the fifth year running in the ESTAs.

Countrywide floated in March on the London Stock Exchange, raising £207m.