Buyout firms circle Foxtons

At least three private equity firms are reportedly preparing bids for Foxtons, a UK estate agency valued at more than £400 million, as founder Jon Hunt prepares to sell his stake in the business.

US buyout groups BC Partners and TA Associates have reportedly joined the list of firms interested in buying Foxtons, a UK estate agency valued at more than £400 million (€589 million, $787 million)

The ubiquitous Foxtons mini

BC and TA are both preparing possible bids for Foxtons, according to reports in the Times and Telegraph newspapers. They join listed UK group 3i, which turned to Foxtons after losing out in its bid to buy Countrywide, another UK estate agency chain.

Credit Suisse, which was hired in November to explore options for a disposal, is thought to be seeking bids of more than £400 million.

According to the Times, Jon Hunt, the co-founder of Foxtons who still owns more than 90 percent of the company, plans to sell his entire stake, pocketing about £400 million.

Hunt’s company, which is known for its aggressive sales tactics, attracted controversy last year when an undercover BBC documentary suggested that staff had forged clients’ signatures and obtained confidential information about buyers from and sister company Alexander Hall, a mortgage broker. The company subsequently denied the allegations.

3i’s £970 million bid for Countrywide was rejected by shareholders earlier this year. US buyout firm Apollo Management has since agreed a £1 billion deal for the chain, but recent reports have cast doubt on its completion following news that US hedge fund Polygon has accumulated a blocking stake.