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Countrywide shares struggle as theory emerges on Platt departure

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Thu 25 Jan 2018

Countrywide shares struggle as theory emerges on Platt departure

If Countrywide thought its fortunes would immediately improve following the departure of chief executive Alison Platt, it has to think again - its share price languished only just above the 100p mark yesterday, for the second day in a row. 

When trading opened an hour after confirmation came through of Platt’s departure, the price rose slightly from 100p to around 104p but then slipped and remained lacklustre throughout the day.

It ended at 100.40p - scarcely changed on the day, despite the ousting of Platt who is to receive a £675,000 pay-off even though at least some board members are reported as being critical of her record in office.

To add to the company's woes, Countrywide's former boss Harry Hill - who has been openly critical of the company under Platt's leadership - is reported this morning to be saying there is "little prospect" of it regaining its former status. 

Meanwhile Jefferies, the City investment consultancy which has in recent years been highly supportive of Platt’s reforms, now has this to say: “Countrywide, with hindsight, tried to modernise too quickly and in its desire to stay relevant in a fast-changing market, probably took the business backwards not forward. The intention of change was to create value and we should not be overly critical of management teams trying new ways of creating value.”

It also hints that Peter Long - now interim Executive Chairman, until such time as a new CEO is appointed - may have been a key behind-the-scenes figure in getting rid of Platt.

“Mr Long has significant experience of multi-branch networks and the adoption of online business models and industry consolidation from his time at TUI. We suspect that he has been one of the agents of the change as a non-executive, challenging and questioning the strategic direction of the group, questions which we believe have led to the changes” says the Jefferies analysis. 

Long yesterday announced an immediate change to the Countrywide group’s management structure, with a pledge to empower branches to win back market share. 



The analysis by the Jefferies consultancy concludes: “We appreciate that Countrywide is down on its luck but the fact remains it has a broad infrastructure, a market leading position and the potential to deliver so much more. Turnarounds are never linear, there will be bumps and turns in the road ahead and we remain holders of the shares today.”

Back in March 2014 Countrywide’s share price was sailing high at 686.00p; a series of falls meant that by late 2016 the listing was dropped from the FTSE 250 and had fallen below 170.00p. Earlier this week Countrywide’s price fell below 100p for the first time - that’s less than a third of its launch price when floated in 2013.