Mark Leftly: Hoare Govett has a chance for absolution in Countrywide's float

Outlook The news that the UK's biggest estate agent by revenue, Countrywide, is looking to again sell shares on the London Stock Exchange has been painted as marking one or more of the following:

a) the return of flotations: very few new equities have been launched since the onset of the credit crunch, but Countrywide is poised to join the recently listed Direct Line and housebuilder Crest Nicholson as an exciting FTSE 250 entrant;

b) the rise of the housing market: if the owner of Arabian mansions-to-golf courses agent Hamptons International and the 113-year-old Bairstow Eves is hopeful of raising £200m to pay off loans, there must be some real signs of a property boom;

c) the triumphant comeback of Countrywide itself: overloaded by debt when it was bought for what now seems an astonishing £1.1bn in 2007, the group was rescued two years later by Oaktree Capital and has now been largely rebuilt.

As far as stories about equities can be poignant, these are almost tear-jerking yarns of victory in the face of adversity, the mighty falling to their knees only to stand tall once more.

But they also mask another fascinating back-from-the-brink tale: the quiet revival of Hoare Govett, the venerable stockbroker that in the post-war years was run by the legendary City gent Kit Hoare, but more recently found itself as a barely regarded, and certainly unloved, offshoot of state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland.

One of the bookrunners named on the Countrywide float is Paul Nicholls, the head of what is now Jefferies Hoare Govett. This means that his firm, which acts as a conduit between companies and shareholders, is in pole position to pick up the estate agent as a broking client once the flotation is completed.

Such a talked-about FTSE newbie would be a fine addition to any broker's client list, but for Hoare Govett this would represent something far greater: absolution.

RBS dumped Hoare Govett for a token sum to the United States's Jefferies in February last year, as chief executive Stephen Hester retreated from that nasty practice of investment banking. Outside of an RBS that lumped all investment bankers together, Hoare Govett had successfully resisted that toxic image: rivals saw the broker as an honourable institution, evoking images of an aristocratic City that would stick to its word, work hard for its clients, and seal a deal over a glass of Scotch and a handshake.

Although that sepia-tinted view of pre-Thatcher stockbroking no longer represented the reality, Hoare Govett remained one of the great names in the industry. But even the most fiercely loyal feared for Hoare Govett's future under the leadership of a tough US investment bank.

Certainly, Hoare Govett was struggling before and after the Jefferies takeover, having been made one of the scapegoats for G4S's embarrassing failure to buy Danish cleaner ISS for £5.2bn, while clients like beer cans maker Rexam and GlaxoSmithKline also wielded the axe.

Even RBS dispensed with the services of its former subsidiary, which seemed to confirm rumblings that Hoare Govett had been understaffed and under-supported after being snapped up as part of the then Sir Fred Goodwin's absurd pursuit of ABN Amro in the first months of the crisis.

However, despite losing so many big name corporates, Hoare Govett now has 75 clients, about 10 more than when it became a part of Jefferies.

There has been a focus on areas where Jefferies already has strength, such as natural resources, resulting in Hoare Govett picking up the likes of Severstal spin-off Nordgold and Asia-focused oil explorer Salamander Energy.

Most instructively, Hoare Govett regained a former client, Cairn Energy, last month. Hoare Govett had lost Cairn as the broker did not have an analyst covering oil exploration and production when owned by RBS; Jefferies gave the broker the expert manpower that the client demanded.

Countrywide has yet to decide which of the three bookrunners – the others being Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse – will be made its broker, and there is even the long shot that the estate agent could look elsewhere if the trio do a bad job on the flotation.

But the fact that Hoare Govett's historic name is now being linked to client wins rather than losses, barely a year after its nadir, marks its story out as a bit of a modern City fairy tale.

Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Derivatives Risk Commodities Business Analyst /Market Risk

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...

Power & Gas Business Analyst / Subject Matter Expert - Contract

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering