Belfast Telegraph

Countrywide profits fall 59% to £19.5m after Brexit vote and stamp duty changes

Profits at Countrywide were cut in half last year after the company was hit by the Brexit vote and Government changes to stamp duty.

The UK's biggest listed estate agency said pre-tax profits collapsed 59% to £19.5 million as the group also announced plans for a rights issue - amounting to 10% of its share capital - to strengthen the balance sheet.

In the second half of the year the firm said the EU referendum had a "sustained impact on sentiment", with fewer buyers and sellers coming to the market.

Countrywide chairman Peter Long said: "In 2016, political uncertainty and stamp duty changes had a significant impact on the UK property market, making it a challenging year for Countrywide.

"Changes to the stamp duty regime, the UK's decision to leave the European Union and proposed changes to tenants' fees all had an effect on the sector and the group."

The company has embarked on an ambitious cost-cutting drive, closing 200 branches across the UK and reducing "layers of management".

Countrywide has pencilled in another £9 million of cost savings in 2017.

Revenue nudged up to £737 million in the year to December 31 compared with last year's £734 million.

Chief executive Alison Platt also warned that 2017 would be challenging.

"Looking forward, we expect difficult market conditions for the foreseeable future, ensuring that the emphasis for 2017 will remain on our strong plans for change," she said.