US private equity firm set to pay £1.05 bn for Countrywide

COUNTRYWIDE, the UK's biggest chain of estate agents, looks set to be sold to Apollo - an American private equity group - for £1.05 billion.

The sale would include 27 Slater Hogg & Howison and 14 Countrywide North estate agency branches in Scotland, as well as Harvey Donaldson surveyors in Glasgow.

Countrywide has a total of 1,179 estate agency branches across the UK, under several brand names.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At an extraordinary general meeting yesterday, Countrywide shareholders approved the Apollo offer. This had been increased by 400 million from a previous bid in an attempt fend off a rival approach.

Reports suggested fellow private equity firm 3i had made an offer earlier this week - a move that followed its failed attempt in January to secure a management buyout of Countrywide, rejected by shareholders for being too cheap.

Countrywide refused to disclose whether the rival bid was from 3i.

The Apollo offer is still to receive approval in the High Court - scheduled for 1 May.

If the bid is given the go-ahead, Countrywide shares will be delisted on 4 May.

Apollo's latest bid offers 617p a share, as a mixture of cash and shares in website Rightmove, in which Countrywide has a 21.5 per cent stake.

The deal also offers shareholders the option to keep up to 137.5m of Countrywide's equity after it delists.

Christopher Sporborg, chairman of Countrywide, said at the group's shareholder meeting yesterday that the Apollo offer represented good value and was "the right thing to do".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: "The board felt that the market never valued the business accurately and this was not something that we saw changing in the foreseeable future and as such we believe Countrywide will flourish as a private company out of the public spotlight."