3i makes move for listed UK estate agent

3i, a London-listed private equity firm, is planning a buyout of residential housing company Countrywide, which could be valued at up to £880 million.

3i, a global private equity firm, has said that it plans to plans to team up with Harry Hill, managing director of Countrywide, regarding a possible offer for the UK-based property services business.
A regulatory statement said: “Following the recent movement in the company’s share price and press speculation, 3i Investments plc confirms that, in conjunction with Harry Hill, managing director of Countrywide, and other members of the management team, it expects shortly to approach Countrywide regarding a possible offer for the company.”
3i added that there is no certainty that an offer will be made. Citigroup is advising the private equity firm.

Countrywide’s share price in 2006

At 9.30 am BST today, Countrywide shares were trading at 507 pence, up almost 10 percent from its closing price yesterday of 461 pence per share. The current share values the business at approximately £880 million (€1.3 billion).
According to media reports, Countrywide’s shares were hit recently by government changes regarding home information packs. However, the business recently reported profit pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 June 2006 had jumped to £62.8 million, up from £3.5 million in the same period of 2005. The boost was in part due to the sale of £16.4 million Rightmove shares, a listed online property website in which Countrywide maintains a 21.5 percent stake.
Countrwide provides estate agency, financial services, surveying and valuation and conveyancing services through a network of 1,100 estate agent offices in the UK.