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UK's Countrywide rejects Alchemy's offer, appoints new CEO

By Samantha Machado
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A Countrywide estate agency is seen in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland

By Samantha Machado

(Reuters) - British real estate agent Countrywide has appointed former William Hill chief Philip Bowcock as its CEO to lead talks on a new rescue deal, as shareholders rejected an offer from private equity firm Alchemy Partners.

The London-based company, one of several agents hurt by a coronavirus-driven drop in property sales this year, also said on Tuesday that executive chairman Peter Long had stepped down from his role and retired as a director with immediate effect.

It said it was considering an amended deal with Alchemy as one possible capital raising option, along with injections of cash from existing shareholders and an offer from real estate management firm Connells Ltd.

On Monday, Connells said that it had completed due diligence and confirmed its 250 pence per share offer for Countrywide, arguing that a significantly larger investment was needed than the 90 million pounds ($120.20 million) proposed by Alchemy.

Connells said that the making of any firm offer was subject to support from Countrywide's board and shareholders.

Countrywide, which vies for market share with Foxtons, has been trying to recover from a botched 2015 restructuring that led to four profit warnings and a deeply discounted share issue three years later.

Its shares, which have recovered some ground in the past few weeks on signs of a deal, were 3.5% lower at 222 pence by 1025 GMT. Net debt stood at 47.3 million pounds at the end of June.

The interest in the company, which operates 60 high street brands, including Hamptons International, Bairstow Eves and Bridgfords, comes just months after rival LSL Property Services pulled out of talks on a takeover.

The company said that Group Managing Director Paul Creffield would also leave the company within a year.

($1 = 0.7488 pounds)

(Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Kirsten Donovan)