Countrywide: a done deal?

Hedge fund Polygon has refused to commit definitively to Apollo‘s enhanced offer for Countrywide, fuelling continued speculation that a rival offer might yet come in for the estate agent chain.

On Friday April 13, a majority of voters approved Apollo’s offer of 530p a share in cash and 0.165 of a Rightmove share. However, whilst 98.1% voted in favour, just 88.1m votes were cast at the EGM, or 51.5% of the full electorate.

Chairman Christopher Sporborg said that he believed Polygon, which then owned 26% of the shares, had not voted on the offer valuing Countrywide at 617p a share, or £1.06bn.

However, it is now believed that Polygon did vote in favour but only held 5% of physical shares in the company that were eligible to vote. The rest were held in contracts for difference, a form of derivative.

Sporborg added that it was possible that another bidder might emerge before the deal was formally accepted by the courts on Tuesday May 1.

Since the EGM, Countrywide shares have remained above the offer price as Polygon has continued to buy shares in the market, most recently at 625p to give it a 29.2% stake in the company. Och Ziff has also bought a 5% stake at 626p.

Apollo lifted its bid by 20p a share in cash the day before the EGM after a third party -widely rumoured to be previously rebuffed bidder 3i – approached Countrywide’s board with a further proposal.

However, Apollo’s financing for the offer has already been lined up with books closing on three high yield issues worth £640m this Thursday, April 26.

3i had no comment on whether it was still interested in making a last ditch offer for Countrywide. Polygon also declined to comment.

Private equity firms are still pursuing Foxtons, the UK estate agent chain. 3i was previously believed to be leading the race for the business after its initial failure to woo Countrywide shareholders, but a spokesperson for the firm confirmed that the London-listed investor has pulled its interest. BC Partners is now understood to be the strongest contender for Foxtons, which has an estimated value of £400m.