LSL Property Services has provided its latest update amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, announcing the closure of all estate agency branches in line with government advice.
Customer support is now being provided remotely, and branch staff are working from home where required. Staff have also been provided with cross-functional training to “enhance workforce flexibility”.
Since its last trading update on 10 March, the group has seen a “material slowdown” of lead sales indicators in its estate agency division, and trading has “dropped very sharply” following the national lockdown.
Nonetheless, the group said it made a “positive start to 2020”, with underlying operating profit for the first two months of the year £2.2m ahead of the same period the year prior, in line with expectations.
Trading conditions in the estate agency division were also positive across the UK in January and February, with “strong year-on-year growth” in net sales.
In its latest update, the group announced that its board has decided not to recommend a final dividend for the year ended 31st December 2019. The decision was made “given the uncertainty of how deep and how long the impact of Covid-19 will be”.
The group has also taken further measures to preserve cash, including a recruitment freeze and annual pay review suspension for the board and all staff. All discretionary expenditure and acquisitions have been halted, and non-essential marketing activities have been cancelled.
The group will no longer provide financial guidance for the year ending 31 December 2020 and beyond in light of the “rapidly developing” situation. Guidance will instead be resumed “when a higher level of normality returns”.
Simon Embley, chairman of the group, said: “We are taking prompt decisive self-help actions across the group to preserve liquidity, reduce costs and optimise the business for the short and medium term.
“We are well positioned to deal with the disruption caused by COVID-19, with a strong balance sheet and a capable and experienced management team across the group.”
He added: “The welfare of our colleagues is an ongoing priority for us and the LSL Board would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our colleagues for their ongoing professionalism during this challenging time.
“The LSL board believes that in taking prompt, decisive and appropriate action to respond to market conditions in combination with its strong balance sheet, the business is well positioned to emerge strongly when market conditions improve.”