Aviva estate agency set for £50m buyout

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Aviva, the UK's largest insurer, is poised to sell Yourmove.co.uk, its UK estate agency business, to the company's management in a deal that could be worth up to £50m.

Aviva, the UK's largest insurer, is poised to sell Yourmove.co.uk, its UK estate agency business, to the company's management in a deal that could be worth up to £50m.

The management buyout, which is believed to be backed by Barclays Private Equity, is expected to be announced next month. The boutique investment bank Lexicon Partners was appointed by Aviva to advise on the sale earlier this year, as the company continued its cost-cutting drive and rationalisation of its businesses.

Yourmove is the UK's fifth largest estate agent, with about 300 branches. It was established more than 15 years ago by General Accident, which was later taken over by CGU, which in turn merged with Norwich Union in 1999. More recently, the company has become one of the most prominent estate agents on the internet.

Since Aviva began its most recent cost-cutting drive last year, it has axed more than 5,000 jobs. Most recently, it announced 700 job losses from its UK life insurance operations three weeks ago, while a further 1,200 were lost after its decision to close its insurance broking arm, Hill House Hammond, in February.

Aviva will be the last of the UK's major life insurers to exit the estate agency sector. After investing heavily in the sector during the 1980s, most have pulled out over the past few years. Last October, Royal & SunAlliance sold its estate agency arm to Skipton Building Society for £40m. Skipton is to combine the operations with its existing UK estate agency business, Connells.

Abbey National and Prudential made combined losses of more than £500m when they sold their estate agency chains in the 1990s.

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