Countrywide receives audacious £82m takeover bid from Connells

Business

Britain’s largest estate agency group Countrywide has received an audacious £82m takeover approach from smaller rival Connells, it revealed today.

Countrywide’s bosses said they had been sent an indicative bid of 250p per share by Skipton Building Society owned Connells and are considering it.

‘The approach is at an early stage and Connells Limited has indicated that any offer is conditional upon, amongst other things, completion of confirmatory due diligence and the recommendation of the board of Countrywide,’ the company said.

Countrywide owns over 50 estate agent brands, including Bairstow Eves

Shares in the firm rocketed 57 per cent to 228p following the news, reflecting the implied offer price.

Countrywide is behind a number of brands including Bairstow Eves and Hamptons International.

The offer price is far above the levels that Countrywide’s shares were trading at last week. It closed at 145p per share on Friday.

But it looks small compared to the levels that shareholders were able to sell for in January this year, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Shares reached 355p in January, but cratered to as low as 42p by the beginning of April.

This approach comes months after another rival, LSL Property Services, dropped plans for an all-share merger with Countrywide.

Countrywide is also the subject of a £90m bid from private equity firm Alchemy. This remains an option but has been put on hold.

The board of Countrywide has recently come under attack from major shareholder Catalist Partners, which accused bosses of mismanaging the company and suggested breaking up the group.

As many businesses did, estate agents faced major struggles during the pandemic lockdowns but the housing market has bounced back strongly over the summer, helped greatly by the stamp duty cut.