Countrywide to make £750m market debut

Kasmira Jefford
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COUNTRYWIDE yesterday set a price for its initial public offering at 350p per share, at the top end of its original range, valuing Britain’s largest estate agency at £750m.

The company, which makes its market debut today, narrowed its price range to between 330p and 350p on Monday from an initial 260p to 360p.

It plans to use the £200m raised from the sale to repay some of its £250m debt and grow the business.

Chief executive Grenville Turner, said: “I am delighted by the very positive response we received from investors over the past few weeks which is recognition of the opportunity Countrywide has as the UK’s largest property services group.”

The recent IPO successes of insurer Direct Line, housebuilder Crest Nicholson and now Countrywide has further fuelled hopes of a pick-up in London’s new issues market.

One banker close to the deal said: “The dynamic that we and private equity owners that own businesses like [Countrywide] have been looking for is validation that the UK markets will price growth appropriately. [Countrywide’s pricing] is a great data point towards that.”

Countrywide runs 46 high street brands including John D Wood and handles one in 11 homes sales.

The listing will see the group return to the market six years after it was taken private by US firm Apollo at the height of the market. Private equity groups Oaktree Capital and Alchemy took control in 2009 through a £641m debt-for-equity swap.

Goldman Sachs, Jefferies and Credit Suisse were bookrunners for the sale.