Jeremy Warner: ... but Foxtons is very definitely not
Friday 09 January 2009
Outlook When John Hunt sold out of Foxtons for £390m in May 2007, everyone knew instinctively that it marked the top of the housing market. Mr Hunt is as shrewd an estate agent as they come, and if he was selling, well then why would anyone be buying? Unfortunately for them, the private equiteers BC Partners didn't share this view, though they must have been about the only people on the planet who didn't. A year and a half later, and BC's managing partner, Andrew Newington, admits "we made the wrong call".
He can say that again. Mr Newington stress-tested his financing against a possible 30 per cent fall in the level of transactions. In fact, they are now down more than 60 per cent, the deal is in breach of its banking covenants, and Mr Newington is not at all sure he wants to inject the new dollop of equity he needs to if he is to keep the company. An opportunity, you might think, for Mr Hunt to buy it all back again. The last time he was asked, he said he wasn't interested, but will he be able to resist such a bottom of the market bargain?
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