Countrywide shares shot up over 20% yesterday amid unusually high volumes of trading.
Even though the rise fell back to some 17%, it was the first uplift after days of consecutive battering.
They finished at 3.8p as speculation mounted as to whether there could be interested buyers in what, despite an unspecified number of recent closures, is still believed to be the UK’s largest estate agency by branches.
Various names of potentially interested purchasers with cash and ambition at their disposal have been mooted amid suggestions that the fates of Purplebricks and Countrywide could be linked.
Meanwhile at Purplebricks – which lays claim to being the UK’s largest estate agency by listings – shares dipped despite what looks like an emerging takeover battle.
Embattled fund manager Neil Woodford reduced his stake for a second time, from 23.8% down to 21.5%, while two stakeholders bought more shares in Purplebricks.
First, as EYE reported in yesterday’s Newsflash, Toscafund doubled its stake to 10.11% from 5.64%. The amount suggests it may have acquired its new shares from Woodford.
Shortly afterwards, Merian Global Investors (UK) – formerly Old Mutual – informed the London Stock Exchange that it had upped its stake from 13.22% to 14.36%.
Meanwhile, there was no move from German publisher Axel Springer, now the largest shareholder with a 26.6% holding – ahead of previous largest shareholder Woodford, who has now this week sold down his stake from 28.88% to 21.51%.
When a stakeholder has control of 30% or more of a company, it is a trigger for a statutory takeover bid.
This is what has happened at eProp, parent company of the Guild, Fine & Country and easyProperty, where Toscafund is offering other shareholders 50p a share.
However, while Toscafund shows signs of pursuing Purplebricks, it has said that an option for easyProperty is to close it down.
Yesterday, Purplebricks’ shares finished some 2% down, at about 107p.
Meanwhile at Foxtons – which has also been troubled by poorly performing shares – Swiss investment bank UBS has increased its stake.
A statement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday shows that UBS has increased its stake from 8.37% to 10.59% overall.