Residential  

Countrywide put thousands on furlough

Countrywide put thousands on furlough

Thousands of Countrywide employees have returned to work as branches in England began to reopen last month, after the majority of staff were placed on furlough.

In a trading update published today (June 26) the group said more than 3,000 employees had now returned to work.

The majority (78 per cent) of its staff were placed on furlough during lockdown as the group aimed to manage its cost base and liquidity.

The property group’s services include mortgages, insurance and surveying, and it employs more than 10,000 people.

Countrywide also said it was continuing to “explore the availability” of funding to large businesses under the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which pays up to £200m with an 80 per cent government guarantee.

The group’s financial services business, which includes its mortgage service, recorded a total income of £24.9m in the five months to May, down 25 per cent on the £33m seen in the same period in 2019.

The business' adjusted Ebitda was £5.2m, which it said was “in line” with 2019 and underpinned by continued remortgage activity and the general insurance back book.

It also reported that adjusted Ebitda margins had improved in both its branch and alternative channels in the period before lockdown.

Gross mortgage distribution stood at £7.5bn, down 8 per cent year-on-year.

It said: "The group has adapted swiftly to the new climate offering a full telephony service whilst also maintaining strong product conversion levels to ensure our customers have appropriate life and general insurance with mortgage and protection consultants working flexibly from home.

"The decisive action taken to reduce costs and to preserve cash and manage liquidity has enabled the group to respond with agility through the Covid-19 pandemic to date."

The group stated since the easing of lockdown written mortgages via its mortgage and protection consultants stood at 39 per cent of 2019 levels, and 43 per cent of the levels seen before the lockdown.

Exchanged mortgage volumes were at 60 per cent of 2019 and 69 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.

According to Countrywide, since the easing of lockdown its sales pipeline had “remained resilient” with a return to growth in agreed sales in the last four weeks as the market returned, and a closing pipeline of £47m, down 12 per cent year-on-year.

It also reported a continued demand for let properties since lockdown eased, with the number of applicants per week 3 per cent higher than the pre-lockdown average, and 88 per cent of 2019 levels.

It said: "Early trading indicators in England are encouraging and we expect a similar bounce back in Wales and Scotland. However, it is still too early to assess the long-term impact on housing transactions and, as a result the group is unable to provide guidance for the full year ending 31 December 2020.  

"The group remains focused on its core strategy to continue to build a sustainable and profitable business as it navigates Covid-19."

In the week before lockdown in March a merger between Countrywide and LSL Property Services had been called off, after the latter announced it no longer intended to pursue the transaction.