Opening Quote: Property group Countryside sees pick-up in demand for houses

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Is the UK property market on the brink of a rebound? (Homeowners can but hope.)

Countryside Properties, a housebuilder and “urban regeneration partner”, said this morning that after a slower start to the year demand has picked up. Its forward order book at halfway through its reporting year now stands almost 50 per cent higher than it did at the same time a year ago. 

Still, average selling prices have come down 4 per cent to £377,000. Londoners who think that feels cheap would be right — part of the reason prices have fallen is because of an increased contribution to Countryside’s sales from its regional businesses. 


The Financial Conduct Authority has unveiled its business plan for the year ahead. No surprise, Brexit is still the big priority. It will also focus on improving firms culture and governance, including by extending the Senior Managers regime to all firms. Not to be under-ambitious, the “future of regulation” is another longer-term plank of the plan. 

Meanwhile, the UK’s competition watchdog, the CMA, has launched a campaign to get travel companies to stop mistreating customers by keeping large deposits when holidaymakers cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. Charges are only meant to reflect the business’s costs if it has plenty of time to re-sell the trip. 

In an otherwise quiet day on the corporate news front, Bunzl, which distributes everyday items such as coffee stirring sticks, faced slowing revenue growth in the first quarter due to “mixed macroeconomic and market conditions”. Its North American market in particular faced a slowdown in the retail and grocery sectors. 

Job moves

Rio Tinto executive Joanne Farrell, who heads up the miner’s health and safety function in Australia, is to retire in September after nearly 32 years with the group. 

Asos, the fast-fashion chain, has confirmed Matthew Dunn will start as its CFO on Tuesday next week. 

Countryside Properties chief operating officer Rebecca Worthington is stepping down after four years. She joined the company shortly before it listed.

And Swiss engineering group ABB has appointed the former Shell boss Peter Voser as interim chief executive after Ulrich Spiesshofer agreed to step down from running the company.

Markets speed-read

Rosier-than-expected growth figures from China helped the renminbi and Australian dollar strengthen while oil prices hit a 2019 high as the country defied forecasts of a deepening slowdown in the first quarter.

Stocks on the mainland climbed, but momentum was expected to ebb from global equities, with a lacklustre start expected in Europe. Oil prices received a boost, climbing above $72 a barrel for the first time since November to a high of $72.08. Read Markets Briefing here

Beyond the Square Mile

Apple and Qualcomm have agreed to end their numerous multibillion-dollar legal fights, paving the way to bring Qualcomm chips back into the iPhone. Shares in the chipmaker climbed as much as 24 per cent on the news, their biggest single-day gain since December 1999.

Netflix signed up 9.6m subscribers in the first three months of the year, taking its total numbers of paying customers to within a whisker of 150m around the world.

Two leading shareholder advisory firms are calling for a boardroom shake-up at Boeing after two fatal accidents involving its 737 Max aircraft.

James Murdoch is set to invest about $1bn from the proceeds of the sale of his stake in 21st Century Fox to assemble a new portfolio of media companies that could include a liberal-leaning news outlet.

Roche, the Swiss drugmaker, has raised its full-year sales outlook on strong sales growth for the first three months of 2019.

Closing quote — essential comment before you go

The curious tale of British Steel and reverse stockpiling Many British businesses have been stockpiling hard ahead of Brexit. not Greybull, the self-styled corporate turnround specialist that has owned British Steel, writes Jonathan Ford

Which business book would FT readers save? They took up the recent challenge to identify the one book they would rescue from a decluttering drive with alacrity. Here are the highlights.


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