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UPDATE 1-Countrywide eyes $1.7 bln rental homes fund as profits jump
February 27, 2014 / 12:26 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Countrywide eyes $1.7 bln rental homes fund as profits jump

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - British estate agency Countrywide
 said it was on the hunt for a partner to help it build a
1 billion pound ($1.7 billion) fund to invest in rental
property, as it posted its first profit since returning to the
stock market. 
    Britain's largest estate agency by revenue said on Thursday
it had committed 20 million pounds of its own capital to buy a
portfolio of rental properties.
    It is now looking for an institution or fund manager partner
to help it build a fund with a target size of 1 billion pounds
invested over the next five years. 
    "We believe Countrywide is uniquely placed to play a major
role in the growth of this developing sector," it said. 
    Institutional investor interest in the private rental sector
has picked up as Britain, traditionally a nation of homeowners,
has seen record numbers of households move into the rental
sector in recent years due to a shortage of homes. 
    In November, Gatehouse Bank formed a joint venture with
property developer Sigma Capital to build thousands of
rental homes in Britain. 
    Countrywide, which enjoyed a strong return to the market in
March after a six year absence, operates from about 1,300
offices under 46 brands including Hamptons International and
Bairstow Eves across Britain. 
    Total income for the year to end-December rose 11 percent to
584.8 million pounds ($973 million), while adjusted earnings
before interest, tax, debt and amortisation increased by 37
percent to 86.6 million pounds. 
    It also said its chief executive of seven years, Grenville
Turner, would step down this year to become its non-executive
chairman. Investors usually frown upon such moves due to
concerns over possible conflicts between the new and old chief
executives. 
    Turner, who owns less than 2 percent of Countrywide's
shares, said the decision had been made after consulting with
shareholders. 
    Countrywide's results come as housebuilders such as Barratt
Developments and Redrow announced increased
dividend payouts to shareholders as Britain's housing market
recovers.

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