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Buyout trouble grows at Countrywide

Another Countrywide shareholder added its name to the growing list of investors coming out against the proposed buyout of the estate agency by 3i last week.

US hedge fund Jana Partners tripled its stake in Countrywide to 5.5% to add weight to the already significant vote against the proposed deal.

It joins Artisan, Standard Life and Boussard & Gauvadan, which collectively own 16% of Countrywide, meaning 21.5% of the shareholders are now against the buyout.

A general meeting arranged for January 15 was postponed to allow 3i to talk to some of the major shareholders in the estate agency. The general meeting will be held within the next three weeks.

Harry Hill, chief executive of Countrywide, needs 75% or more of the shareholders to agree to the buyout. Analysts are predicting the deal is now unlikely and warning that shares in Countrywide may fall if 3i pulls out.

In a preliminary vote, 61.7% of shareholders agreed with the original deal to sell Countrywide to 3i for 490p per share. But other shareholders argue that the deal ignores Countrywide’s long-term business plans. At the time of going to press, Countrywide’s share price was 523p.


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