3i, which recently had its bid for estate agency Countrywide rejected, is understood to be among the firms that are bidding for Foxtons, which is owned by entrepreneur Jon Hunt. Credit Suisse, which is managing the process, is said to be seeking bids of upwards of £400 million (€596.5 million).
Hunt appointed Credit Suisse in November to examine options for a disposal. The bank is understood to be managing a parallel-track process of trade sale or initial public offering.
Foxtons has a reputation in the property world for the hard-sell tactics of its staff. In 2006, Foxtons and its sister company, Alexander Hall, featured in a BBC documentary that suggested various questionable practices. The company denied any wrongdoing.
3i’s interest comes three weeks after it failed to win shareholder backing for a £970 million (€1.4 billion) management buyout of Countrywide, the UK’s largest chain of estate agents.
Apollo Management, the US buyout group, has made an indicative offer to the board of Countrywide at just over £1 billion. Shareholder reaction to the new bid has been mixed so far, offering Apollo no guarantee of success.