Countrywide soars as 3i keeps mum(2)

Shares in the UK estate agency business are up by more than 4 percent as 3i refuses to say whether it will make a fresh bid to top US rival Apollo Management’s knockout 590p-a-share offer.

The possibility of a 3i counter-bid boosted shares in Countrywide, the UK estate agents which agreed Apollo Management’s $1 billion-offer on Friday.

Countrywide’s shares rose by more than 4 percent to as much as 604.5p, up 56 percent, from its 52-week low of 372p on 17 July, while the rest of the market headed south on a triple-digit fall.

3i declined to comment on the report. Countrywide shareholders in January rejected a 3i bid worth £950 million, or 570p a share.

The new 3i bid report, in a Sunday Times story at the weekend, came in the wake of Countrywide’s announcement after markets closed on Friday that it had accepted an 590p-a-share offer by Apollo, a private equity firm headed by Leon Black.

The Apollo deal would give Countrywide shareholders 510p per share as well as the equivalent of an 80p per share stake in Rightmove, a property web site in which Countrywide retains a 21.5% stake.

Countrywide owns a number of the UK’s top estate agency names, including John D Wood, and operates about 1,170 agency offices. Among its major shareholders are Standard Life and Prudential.