Bristol & West to sell agencies

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The Independent Online
BRISTOL & WEST Building Society is on the brink of selling the bulk of its estate agency chain, writes Vivien Goldsmith.

It is in the final stage of negotiating the sale of 110 to 120 estate agency branches. 'We are still in negotiation with interested parties,' a Bristol & West spokesman said.

It plans to keep 30 branches of Hamptons, the upmarket London-based estate agency, and 25 branches of Bristol & West Property Services, which will become retail financial services shops.

The society, the 10th-largest with assets of pounds 7.73bn, announced last year that it was setting aside pounds 10m for the project to convert key sites into financial services centres. It was the first building society to be accepted as a member of the British Retail Consortium.

The society suffered a 42 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to pounds 39.1m last year after it was forced to treble provisions for possible bad debts.

Bristol & West bought Hamptons in 1990 from administrators of British & Commonwealth, the collapsed financial services group, for pounds 20m - pounds 10m less than the asking price of a year earlier.