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Deadline set for Countrywide inquiry

The European Commission says the deadline for its inquiry into private equity group 3i’s proposed 940m acquisition of Countrywide is February 8.

This comes after one of Countrywide’s shareholders, Artisan Partners which has a 7% stake in the firm, attempted to block the move due to concerns that 3i has overlooked much of the estate agent’s potential growth in the next few years.

Standard Life and hedge fund Polygon, which own 3.2% and 7.6% of Countrywide’s shares respectively, have also joined the backlash.

Originally, Countrywide’s shares were to be sold to 3i at 567p but that was seen by Artisan not to “reflect the full and fair value” of the shares. Now, 16.4% of the shareholders are set to rebel against the deal.

The deal is being examined under the EU’s simplified merger review procedure for cases the commission believes do not pose serious competition concerns.

The deal would see part of Rightmove.co.uk – of which Countrywide owns 21.5% – being bought out. These shares have become all the more precious since the property website saw its shares rocket by 10%.

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