LONDON Aug 14 Oaktree and Apollo
have sold 200 million pounds worth of shares in real
estate agents Countrywide, cashing in on an improvement
in the UK housing sector that is expected to see a rival kick
off its own float this month.
British UK house prices grew by the most since 2006 in July,
according to a survey this week and official data shows house
prices in London, which typically lead the rest of the country,
jumped 8.1 percent year-on-year in June.
The jump in activity has underpinned a more than 60 percent
rise in Countrywide shares since its stock market launch in
March and a financial source said the launch of a flotation of
rival Foxtons was now being planned for as early as August 27.
Countrywide Holdings, whose 46 brands include Hamptons
International and Bairstow Eves, is the biggest player by
revenue in a market that was battered by the 2008 financial
crisis but is steadily recovering.
Countrywide's three private equity owners Alchemy Partners,
Oaktree Capital Management and Apollo Global Management did not
sell any shares in its initial offer in March, preferring to
hold on to the bulk of their substantial stakes in the firm.
On Wednesday Countrywide said Oaktree had sold 20.4 million
shares, reducing its holding to 27.6 percent from 36.9 percent,
while Apollo had sold 14.6 million shares, taking its stake down
to 10.9 percent from 17.5 percent. Alchemy held on to its stake.
A source close to the deal said the shares had been sold to
institutional investors at 570 pence each, a 4.5 percent
discount to Countrywide's Tuesday closing share price of 597
pence, and raising a total of 199.5 million pounds ($309.2
million) for the sellers.
House prices have been bolstered by government incentives to
buy new-build property, with many economists warning it could
fuel another house price bubble.
Foxton's majority owners, private equity firm BC Partners,
are gearing up for a listing of the high-profile chain - which
has 42 offices, mainly in London - according to a person
familiar with the deal.
Stock market listings don't usually happen during August,
the peak summer holiday period in Europe, but with many bankers
returning to work in late August, launching its sale then would
allow Foxtons to get out ahead of an expected September rush.
Foxtons, known for its distinctive Mini Cooper cars and
glitzy high street stores with coloured chairs and drinks
fridges, is hoping to be valued at around 500 million pounds on
its market debut, the person familiar with the matter said.
BC Partners has appointed Credit Suisse, Canaccord
Genuity and Numis Securities to run the share sale, a source
told Reuters in June.
Foxtons and BC Partners declined to comment.
BC Partners has had a chequered history with Foxtons since
first buying it in 2007. The chain came to epitomise the woes of
the private equity industry as the credit crisis deepened and
plummeting sales pushed it into breach of the terms on its debt.
BC ceded control of Foxtons to its lenders in 2010, before
taking majority ownership again last year.