Countrywide Plc (LON:CWD) today released a trading update ahead of its final results for 2014. Key information from the report provided below:
**Countrywide poised to deliver record results in 2014 in line with expectations despite recent market slow-down**
Countrywide plc (LSE:CWD), the UK’s largest integrated property services group announces the following update ahead of its Final Results for the year to 31 December 2014, which will be released on 26 February 2015.
The delivery of record financial results in line with expectations despite recent property market conditions demonstrates the value of our broadly based business; 2014 also saw a record result from our lettings business on revenue, profits and margins; The development of our commercial operations progressed well in 2014 with Lambert Smith Hampton delivering ahead of our expectations.
The slowdown in volumes in the UK sales market in the fourth quarter is clearly evident in the level of house exchanges in both Estate Agency and London & Premier. Estate Agency recorded a drop in volumes of 2% following a Q3 result which was up 11% on 2013. London & Premier had seen volumes drop 9% in Q3 which accelerated in Q4. Buyers remain cautious generally and particularly in London. The Stamp Duty reform should be beneficial to the market in the long term but initially introduced more uncertainty in the Greater London area.
The Group looks to balance the allocation of resources between investment to help drive future growth and maintaining a significant level of total shareholder returns.
The Group continues to invest in high quality, value adding acquisition opportunities. In 2014, we have invested £48.8 million and completed the following acquisitions:
Tucker Gardner, a leading lettings and sales business in Cambridge and surrounding areas; Preston Bennett, a dominant agent in land and new homes in North London; BTW Shiells, the largest property consultancy in Northern Ireland; In addition to Tucker Gardner, we have also completed 27 lettings acquisitions for a total consideration of circa £31million; Humphreys Skitt & Co, a two branch sales and lettings business in Greenwich and Blackheath; We have also opened 20new start branches across our lettings and estate agency network.
As previously outlined, 2014 was a significant year for shareholder returns with total returns in excess of
£57 million as follows:
Paid £13.2 million for final dividend for 2013; Paid £11.0 million for interim 2014 dividend; Paid £19.8 million for special 2014 dividend; Returned £13.2 million via share buybacks purchasing 2.9 million shares (Total including 2015 transactions, £15m / 3.3 million shares).
As of 07:36 GMT, Thursday, 22 January, Countrywide PLC share price is 431.20p.