Countrywide shares drop by a third in a single day following profit warning

Yesterday’s gloomy trading update from Countrywide didn’t go down well with City investors, who immediately began offloading the company’s shares at an alarming rate, helping drive down its share price by an astonishing 29% to an all-time low of 55p a share.

This means anyone who bought stock in the company at its highest price of £6.94 – assuming they were brave enough to hang on to the shares – has now lost 92% of their original investment.

Today’s huge value loss follows a 20% drop in its share price from £1.38 to £1.14 in January when it last updated the City on its promised ‘back to basics’ programme.

Experience agents

Yesterday’s shares nosedive was not helped by a scathing article in London’s Evening Standard newspaper which squarely blamed former CEO Alison Platt for the company’s ongoing woes, saying she helped lose “large swathes of experienced agents and executives”.

Today’s trading update, which flagged up a continuing profits tumble for the first six months of 2018 and beyond, did point to some progress for Executive Chairman Peter Long’s attempts to take the company back to its roots as a belts-and-braces estate agent.

Long gone are references to online or hybrid experiments within its latest or recent trading updates, and there is now no sign of the ‘hybrid’ experiment trialled by three of its brands under Platt.

At the time the promised roll-out of hybrid £995 online deals beyond the three trials led many to claim Countrywide could become a larger hybrid agent than Purplebricks. Peter Long, following Platt’s departures in January, clearly begged to differ once Platt had cleared her desk.

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Tenants face rent bombshell

Rent hikes are inevitable unless the government reverses tax changes for landlords, it has been claimed.

Tenants face paying an average of £23 a month more in rent, totalling £414 across a typical 18-month tenancy, according to MakeUrMove.

The online letting agent forecasts that the average monthly rent, which it says currently stands at £918 a month, is set to rise by 2.5% in 2018.

Overall, the company predicts that around 2 million tenants across the UK will be hit with rent hikes totalling a combined £46m or so a month, as many landlords are forced to pass extra costs onto tenants by pushing up rents.

The government has attempted to create what the former chancellor George Osborne described as a “level playing field” between landlords and those buying homes to live in, by increasing taxes for landlords such as increasing stamp duty costs, cutting mortgage interest relief, scrapping the ‘wear and tear’ allowance, among other measures.

The impending tenant fees ban is also contributing to create a perfect storm of financial pressures on landlords, leaving many with little alternative but to increase tenants’ rents to cover their costs.

Renters in London in particular are in for a rough ride, with around half of landlords in the capital planning to increase rents.

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