UK's largest estate agent Countrywide to return to public trading

The UK's largest estate agency by revenues, Countrywide, has confirmed plans to return to the London Stock Exchange after almost six years as a private company.

The UK's largest estate agency by revenues, Countrywide, has confirmed plans to return to the London Stock Exchange after almost six years as a private company.

Countrywide, majority owned by private equity firm Oaktree Capital, hopes to raise around £200m though the float following its admission to the market on the FTSE 250 index.

The company, which sells and rents residential properties, said it will use the proceeds to repay some of its £250m net debt and to renegotiate a new £100m banking facility.

The proportion of the shares offered for sale, the group's expected valuation, and its IPO provision were yet to be confirmed.

Countrywide's flotation will prove one of the most significant listings in the British real estate sector since the collapse of the property market in 2008.

The company was listed between 1986 and 2007 when it was taken private by buyout group Apollo at the peak of the housing boom.

However, the subsequent housing slump and hefty debts left the group in financial troubles.

Oaktree took over Countrywide in 2009, injecting £110m of capital and writing off three-quarters of its loans.

"Over the past six years we have transformed Countrywide into the UK's largest integrated property services group," said Chief Executive Officer, Grenvill Turner in a statement.

"We have worked hard to secure significant growth opportunities via acquisitions and by opening new high street branches."

The news follows last week's move by house builder Crest Nicolson to return to public trading. Crest raised £225m through a 220p per share flotation.

Greencoat UK Wind also plans to join the LSE as the government and businesses get behind clean energy.

The recent admissions point to signs of a revival of London's stagnant initial public offering market.

RD

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