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EXCLUSIVE: Countrywide confirms IPO

Sarah Davidson

February 20, 2013

The IPO, due later this year, will look to raise around £200m which will be used partly to repay outstanding debt.

Although the firm refused to give details, it is thought if the share issue is successful Countrywide will make its debut as part of the FTSE 250.

The group released the following statement: “Countrywide today announces its intention to proceed with an initial public offering of ordinary shares in a newly-established English-incorporated company which will be the holding company of the Countrywide Group. Countrywide intends that the new company will apply for admission of its shares to the premium listing segment of the official list and to trading on the LSE.”

The group posted its 2012 results earlier this morning revealing its total revenue was up 6% to £539.8m while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were up 12% over the year to £63m.

Meanwhile the group’s latest EBITDA for the final quarter of 2012 was reported at £20.9m up 29% on the same period the previous year and it revealed £3.1m worth of redundancy payouts last year. Insurance claims and litigation against the firm stood at £25.2m for the year up from £9.4m in 2011.

Countrywide said its surveying division, which grew its revenue 32% over 2012, was “dealing with an abnormal level of claims” from the period 2004 to 2007. The provision made in 2012 follows a claims provision of £21.3m for 2010 and 2011 however the firm said the six year contractual limitation period expires for 2007 surveys in 2013.

Its net debt stood at £203.5m in 2012 while the group announced a cash balance of £47m and a leverage ratio of 3.2 (down from 3.4 in 2011).

The confirmation comes just a month after the initial public offering was tipped by the Financial Times which claimed Countrywide’s private equity backer Oaktree was in talks with Goldman Sachs.

Countrywide, which owns estate agency brands Hamptons International, Churchills and Bairstow Eves, was originally listed until private equity group Apollo bought it for £1.1bn in 2007.

In 2009 Oaktree agreed a deal to inject £110m of new capital to the firm and write off 75% of its debt.

Since then the management team has been siginificantly restructured with a new focus on “fraud and risk controls” while the group has concentrated on delivering cost savings, developing diverse and recurring revenue streams and pursuing organic and strategic growth through acquisitions.

Mortgages

The financial services division of the group reported increased revenue in 2012 of £64.7m, up by 4% from 2011, while EBITDA for the division stood at £9.8m for the year.

It claimed a 10% share of the mortgage market after writing 54,000 mortgages over the year and said the group had “strong momentum” going into 2013 following a 12% uplift in EBITDA in the second half of last year versus H2 2011.

Coutrywide also announced it had struck off 228 “high risk clients” including mainly second charge brokers and bridging finance.

Estate agency

Countrywide’s results also show the estate agency division of the group excluding its premium brand Hamptons International saw revenue fall last year by 1% to £214.3m although revenue generated through Hamptons was up 10% to £72.6m for the year driven by branch acquisitions and a record financial performance in the chain’s lettings business.

Revenue generated through lettings was £95.8m up 18% on 2011 and EBITDA saw a 42% uplift in 2012 to £21.7m.

Surveying and valuations meanwhile grew to take a 32% market share with revenue of £65.4m and EBITDA at £10.2m in 2012.


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