In­vestor urges Coun­try­wide to re­shape busi­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Ben Gart­side

ONE of Bri­tain’s big­gest es­tate agents faces calls to over­haul se­nior man­age­ment, sell as­sets and shut hun­dreds of branches af­ter an at­tack from an activist in­vestor.

Coun­try­wide has been urged to re­shape its busi­ness in an open let­ter from in­dus­try vet­eran Robin Pat­ter­son, whose firm Catal­ist Part­ners has bought 10.5pc of the com­pany.

Mr Pat­ter­son con­demned a 97pc slump in Coun­try­wide’s share price over the past four years and warned that ri­vals now have a much higher mar­ket value de­spite their lower rev­enues.

Catal­ist called for the com­pany to sell off non-es­sen­tial di­vi­sions worth £300m, slim down its 50 brands to no more than 10 and re­place 700 branches with hubs on key high streets. It also said Coun­try­wide should hire a chief ex­ec­u­tive with in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence to work with Peter Long, its ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. It is un­der­stood that Catal­ist has a short­list of pre­ferred can­di­dates.

The firm is cur­rently look­ing for its third chief ex­ec­u­tive in as many years.

Mr Pat­ter­son, a for­mer coowner and boss of ri­val Hamp­tons In­ter­na­tional, said: “The lead­er­ship of the com­pany needs to be ur­gently ad­dressed.”

Catal­ist is un­der­stood to have spo­ken to a ma­jor­ity of share­hold­ers in Coun­try­wide and is said to be con­fi­dent of sup­port.

A Coun­try­wide spokesman said: “We are in reg­u­lar and con­struc­tive di­a­logue with all our main share­hold­ers and will be up­dat­ing the mar­ket in due course when we pub­lish our half-year re­sults.”

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