B&B shortlists bidders for estate agency and Charcol advice arm

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The Independent Online

Bradford & Bingley has selected a group of serious potential bidders for the financial advice and estate agency businesses it is trying to sell, and has sent detailed financial information to them about the divisions.

Bradford & Bingley has selected a group of serious potential bidders for the financial advice and estate agency businesses it is trying to sell, and has sent detailed financial information to them about the divisions.

The former building society, which is trying to radically restructure itself, attracted considerable interest when it announced seven weeks ago that it would sell its independent financial advice business, including the highly rated Charcol brand, its estate agency chains and its property surveying businesses.

City sources said B&B had cored down bidders to 47 different parties interested in buying all or part of the businesses.

Goldman Sachs, the investment bank handling the sale, has in the past 10 days sent detailed information memoranda to the group.

B&B would not comment on the process. Its chief executive, Stephen Crawshaw, is expected to tell the City that the group of potential buyers has been narrowed down when B&B announces its half-year results on 6 August.

Mr Crawshaw, who has been in the top job since April, said in May that it aimed to complete the sales by the end of the year. But he and other senior managers are keen to minimise uncertainty among staff and want to wind up the process well before that deadline.

Analysts said it was very difficult to estimate what price B&B could raise for the businesses it is putting on the block. Collectively, it paid £160m to acquire them over a number of years, though they have subsequently increased their market shares.

While all of the brands up for sale are generally well-respected, Mr Crawshaw concluded in his analysis after becoming chief executive that they contribute very little to B&B's bottom line.

The move will mark a dramatic shake-up for B&B, cutting its headcount by half and focusing the remaining business on niche mortgage lending and the sale of simple financial products.

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