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After announcing its intention for an all-share merger with Countrywide plc on 24 February 2020, LSL Property Services plc (LSL) has confirmed, on 16 March, that it no longer intends to proceed. No reason has been provided by LSL for the decision.
Countrywide plc has responded to LSL’s announcement, noting its withdrawal and stating that;
‘The Company has been seeing the benefits from its 'Back to basics' turnaround plan, with continuing operations having returned to growth in profitability. The Board of Countrywide remains confident in the strength of the underlying business as an independent Company.
The Company has seen a positive mood swing in public sentiment through the early part of 2020 which we have seen reflected in a strong start in agreed sales which are ahead of the Board's expectations through February 2020. Whilst we have seen some softening in recent days as a result of Covid-19, it is too early to assess that impact. ‘
This is the latest amongst several setbacks for Countrywide with the firm reporting in its 2019 half yearly results that an ‘adjusted EBITDA pre-IFRS16 of £7.6 million was 39% below H1 2018 (£12.6 million), with the year on year decline all attributable to Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), reflecting an extremely challenging UK commercial transactional market’. Following this, the firm was due to complete the sale of LSH on 31 December 2019 to John Moeller. However, after continuous delays in completing the transaction the company announced on 11 March 2020 that ‘the Company has notified Mr Moeller that it will now also explore alternative options for the sale of LSH, and is considering its legal options to pursue Mr Moeller for damages and costs from continuing delay in completion’. Whilst the firm stated that it is currently in discussions with another potential buyer, the news saw its share price drop 10% in one day (although since then broader stock market turbulence has led to further significant falls).
Adding to Countrywide’s woes, on 12 March, the company announced that Bruce Marsh will no longer be joining the business, after announcing in October 2019 that he had accepted the position of Chief Operating Officer.
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