Belfast Telegraph

Countrywide delays cash-call plans amid chairman’s Royal Mail woes

Chairman Peter Long also chairs Royal Mail.

Embattled estate agency Countrywide has pushed back plans for an investor cash-call just days after its chairman faced down a shareholder protest at his other firm Royal Mail.

Britain’s biggest listed estate agency and owner of brands including Hamptons and Bridgfords said last month it wanted to put in place a “long-term capital structure” to support a turnaround plan, with aims to cut debt by at least 50% through additional equity finance.

It had been expected to announce details of the rights issue alongside its half-year results, which were due on Thursday.

But Countrywide said in its latest update it would now report its interim results and details of the equity raising by August 2.

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Chairman Peter Long is juggling issues at Royal Mail after last week’s shareholder revolt (Tui/PA)

It comes as chairman Peter Long is dealing with shareholder discontent at Royal Mail, where he also acts as chairman, following last week’s protest which saw 70% of investors vote against the group’s remuneration report.

Just over a third of shareholders also voted against Mr Long’s re-election amid concerns over the number of board roles he holds, as he is also deputy chairman of travel giant Tui Group.

In its update, Countrywide offered some cheer as it said underlying half-year  earnings would be “slightly” better than previously expected.

It had warned in June that interim earnings were set to come in at around £20 million lower than last year, with the shortfall not expected to be recovered in the second half.

The news had sent shares crashing as much as 25%.

But the firm said there were now more positive signs.

It said: “The group has made significant progress in building back industry expertise and staffing levels in sales and lettings and has seen an increase in the register of properties available for sale and the pipeline of agreed sales.

“The group expects to make continued progress in the second half of the year which, combined with the traditionally stronger second half in our business-to-business and financial services operating segments, means the group continues to expect the full year to be in line with the board’s expectations.”

In March, Countrywide’s shares also slumped after the company swung to an annual loss and warned over further pain to come in 2018.

At the time it said it was going “back to basics” after what it described as three years of under-performance in its main sales and lettings business.

It is axing around a third of its 450-strong central office team as part of cost-cutting efforts to help turn around its fortunes.

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