Countryside boss out as FTSE250 housebuilder reaches ceasefire with activist investor

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ountryside’s share price was falling through the floor today as the housebuilder reported a nearly 50% drop in sales in the first quarter despite the UK’s booming property market.

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In the three months to January the total completion of newbuild homes decreased from 1280 to 809, reducing revenue from £363 million to £250 million.

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Adjusted operating profit fell almost in half from £36.6 million to £16.5m in 2021 compared to the same period.

Disappointing numbers saw investors flee, sending Countryside’s share price down more than 27% to 298 in the typically flat FTSE 250.

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The collapse came after the developer’s CEO, Ian McPherson, stepped down with immediate effect because of the cease-fire deal struck with active investor Browning West.

His sudden departure came last May after chairman David Howell was accused by the Los Angeles-based hedge fund of having “inadequate leadership skills.”

Peter Lee, a partner in the hedge fund, which holds a 10% stake, has been appointed to the board.

For his part, Browning has agreed to end his long-running campaign in a formal relationship settlement.

This included, among other things, an undertaking that Browning would not propose resolutions at general meetings, transmit statements to shareholders or seek the removal of directors from the board.

Browning has successfully pushed the developer away from building homes for private sale and to focus on its “Crown Jewel” partnership business that builds low-cost social housing.

Howell’s successor John Martin, who will stand down as CEO when the search begins for MacPherson’s replacement, said: “Ian has led the countryside through a challenging period, including the COVID pandemic and the group strategy, which is to focus all our resources. On our market-leading partnership business.

“I want to thank Ian for his unwavering commitment and dedication and wish him every success in the future.”

McPherson said: “It’s an honor to serve this great company. I’ve worked with many talented colleagues, and I look forward to them growing the company stronger.”

Browning Lee, who will join former Women’s Minister Baroness Sally Morgan on the company board, said: “Browning West has made substantial investments in rural areas as we believe the company has a strong competitive advantage and tremendous long-term growth. chances are.

“I look forward to working closely and collaboratively with our Board colleagues to ensure that its great potential is harnessed in rural areas.”

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