Hambro estate agent in the black

A day after the Hambros group came under threat from a Hong Kong investment fund, Hambro Countrywide, the estate agent and financial services offshoot, swung back into the black after heavy losses.

The sharply improved performance was announced as shareholders were digesting the impact of the disclosure by Regent Pacific, which has specialised in breaking up underperforming investment trusts, that it had bought a 3 per cent stake in Hambros.

Hambro Countrywide, which is majority controlled by Hambros, reported a first-half return to profit of pounds 10.5m, compared with losses of pounds 5.8m last year.

Regent hopes for a meeting with Hambros as early as next week following a letter from Sir Chips Keswick, the chief executive, saying he would be willing to see his new shareholders.

Hambros has potentially powerful allies on its shareholder register. San Paolo, the Italian bank, has a 14 per cent holding and Guardian Royal Exchange almost 10 per cent.

GRE has the same chairman as Hambros, Lord Hambro, and Sir Edward Adeane, former private secretary to the Prince of Wales, is on both boards.

The only other large shareholder is Norwich Union with 4.87 per cent.