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Iain McPherson departs and £700m wiped off value of housebuilder by plummeting shares
The chief executive of Countryside Properties has left the company after it failed to cash in on the UK property boom that has fuelled the huge profits at its housebuilding peers.
Shares in Countryside were down by a quarter on Thursday, making it the biggest FTSE 250 faller by some distance and wiping £700m off its value, after the company revealed the extent of its poor performance.
Adjusted operating profits more than halved year on year to £16.5m and housing completions fell by more than a third in the three months to the end of December. In contrast, Persimmon on Thursday reported bumper house sales, up a fifth on pre-pandemic levels in the second half of last year.
Countryside announced the immediate departure of its chief executive, Iain McPherson, with its chair, John Martin, standing in until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Martin said: “Trading in the first quarter of our new financial year has been below the board’s expectations.”
He said he would conduct a review process of all of Countryside’s developments to ensure that each site was being developed “in accordance with the plans set out during the investment process”.
As part of the boardroom reshuffle the company has appointed Peter Lee, a partner at Browning West – a US-based activist investor that has built up an almost 10% stake to become one of the company’s biggest shareholders – as a non-executive director.
Countryside also responded on Thursday to government plans to protect leaseholders from the costs of all post-Grenfell building safety defects, not just combustible cladding.
“[We are] fully supportive of finding an industry-wide solution for the benefit of leaseholders,” the company said. “We are currently working with landlords to expedite remediation in cases where the historic work on Countryside developments did not meet building standards.”
The departure of McPherson and poor results cap a torrid year for Countryside.
In September, the competition regulator forced the company to give formal commitments to free thousands of people who bought leasehold homes from costly contract terms resulting in the doubling of ground rent fees every 10 to 15 years.
Countryside has confirmed it no longer sells leasehold properties with doubling-ground rent clauses, following the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.