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Countrywide set for flotation

Estate agency group Countrywide is set for a stock market flotation by its US private equity owner Oaktree Capital, according to reports.

This week, the Financial Times said Oaktree has begun discussions with Goldman Sachs and other banks about launching an initial public offering for Countrywide, possibly this year.

Countrywide, which includes brands such as Hamptons International, Churchills and Bairstow Eves, employs 10,500 people and arranged £4bn worth of mortgages in 2011.

It acquired mortgage networks Mortgage Intelligence and Mortgage Next in April 2011, and launched the Next Intelligence mortgage club in September 2011. Its mortgage broker arm, Countrywide Principal Services, has 650 mortgage advisers working across 1,300 estate agency branches which offer mortgages from Countrywide’s lender panel.

Following the Mortgage Intelligence acquisition, Countrywide’s mortgage market share was over six per cent and its share of the intermediary market was over 11 per cent.

John Charcol senior technical director Ray Boulger says: “The fact they are now talking seriously about a flotation suggests they see the prospects for 2013 as encouraging.

“It will undoubtedly happen at some stage and an IPO is the most obvious way to realise their holdings.”

Countrywide made a pre-tax profit of £37.5m in 2011, up nearly a third from £27.4m in 2010.

Oaktree, Countrywide and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

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