PTFS rumoured to have turned down buyout offer from Countrywide

Personal Touch Financial Services has rejected a buyout offer from estate agency giant Countrywide, Mortgage Strategy understands.

At its annual awards ceremony last week, Doug Crawford, chief executive of PTFS, revealed that the network had received an unsolicited approach. Although Crawford could not reveal who the buyer was, in his speech he strongly hinted that it was Countrywide.

He told guests: “Let’s just say it was a large company, a national company – or you could say a countrywide company.”
Crawford went on to add that PTFS’ board turned down the offer.

The move is a sign of Countrywide’s ambition to step further into the mortgage market and the network sector.

Countrywide, which is the UK’s largest estate agency chain and broker, has made a number of high profile acquisitions so far this year. It acquired Hamptons International in June and the Letmore Group in July.

In an interview with Mortgage Strategy in August, Countrywide’s chief executive Grenville Turner revealed that its mortgage division had a 5% share of the total transactional mortgage market and a 10% share of the intermediary market.

PTFS has not been coy about its own acquisition plans in the past and in September Crawford revealed the network had looked at four possible acquisitions since April. Three of these it walked away from and one was still in the pipeline at the time.

Dev Malle, sales and marketing director at PTFS, has denied that Crawford had been alluding to Countrywide in his speech.

Malle says: “There was an app-roach which was rejected by the board. But in terms of who it was, that’s pure speculation.”

He went on to say that PTFS was looking at a couple of IFA firms as potential acquisitions.

The group’s latest financial results reveal its parent, Personal Touch Holdings, posted a pre-tax loss of £3.3m in 2009, but its network arm PTFS made a profit before tax of £2.6m for the year. But the network has cash reserves of £3.4m and is £4.9m ahead of its minimum capital adequacy requirements.

There have been several network acquisitions this year. Last month Pink Home Loans was snapped up by LSL Property Services for £1.59m, following LSL’s acquisition of First Complete, formerly Home of Choice, for £1.5m in May.

A spokeswoman for Countrywide says it cannot comment on market speculation.