Countrywide in £250m protection deal with Friends Provident

Countrywide Assured has snapped up the Friends Provident estate agency network in a £250m deal to sell the life company&#39s mortgage-related protection products for 15 years. Countrywide, Britain&#39s biggest estate agency, now has 842 outlets in the UK but will cease to manufacture mortgage protection products.

Countrywide chairman Christopher Sporborg says: “With the new polarisation arrangements it is better to be a distributor than a manufacturer.”

Countrywide announced the deal last week as it unveiled a sparkling set of interim results. Profits from the estate agency division rose 146% to £15.5m in the six months to the end of June. House exchanges were up 10% to 44,380 at an average price 16% higher at £124,400.

Sporborg adds: “While the high rate of house-price inflation can not be sustained, we are confident that the market will remain robust for the rest of the year, bringing improved profitability.”

In the first six months of 2002, Countrywide generated £8.9m of annual premium equivalent in protection products and says it&#39s committed to growth plans in connection with its core mortgage and property transaction-related activity.

Countrywide has approximately 168,000 mortgage clients.

Ben Gunn, managing director of friends Provident Life and Pensions, says: “Countrywide is a successful operation and will provide a good source of additional business with attractive margins and the potential for growth.”

Friends Provident Estate Agencies had 104 branches operating across the south of England under the trading names of Fulfords, Chappell & Matthews, Palmer Snell and Carson & Company. They were acquired for £12m.