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DVH believed to be making B&B assets bid

Direct Valuations Holdings is believed to be mounting a £62m bid for Bradford & Bingley&#39s estate agency, surveyors Secure Move and Charcol.

DVH already has a 75% stake in franchise brokerage mortgageforce and controls some 200,000 valuations a year for eight lenders including Northern Rock, Standard Life and HSBC.

Sources say DVH group chief executive Christopher Hickling is eager to start talks early, despite the official information memorandum from B&B not having been issued.

Hickling likes to keep a low profile but is widely respected by high flyers in the City. He has a personal fortune of around £15m and a collection of performance cars worth some £1.8m. Paul Gratton, chief executive of online bank Egg, is also a non-executive director of DVH and a major private investor in mortgageforce.

Bradford & Bingley declined to comment but sources in the company say such an approach would be “highly presumptuous”.

And a senior source at Charcol says: “Considering the information memorandum hasn&#39t even been published I find such an exact amount allegedly being offered hard to believe.”

The information memorandum is not expected to be available until the week of B&B&#39s pre-close trading statement on June 25.

If true, however, such a bid could scupper plans for a management buyout at the London-based brokerage – by far the preferred option for staff who remain the key asset of the IFA.

City pundits are putting a £10m to £20m price tag on the brokerage but with profits of just £300,000 last year some see even that as overpriced.

One analyst says: “The jewel in the crown would obviously be the surveying arm. However, with Charcol&#39s profits so low and the estate agency making a loss, I think they&#39ll be hard pushed to get £15m apiece.”

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