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Business News

Countryside seeks to regain its placing in the Square Mile

Countryside Properties, one of the UK's biggest housebuilders, is aiming to return to the Stock Exchange in 2016, only weeks after being bought by a US hedge fund.

The Essex-based housebuilder was taken private in a Lloyds-backed management buyout in 2005 but, like much of the industry, was hit by the mortgage crisis. However, housebuilders have recovered strongly: Crest Nicholson returned to the stock market last month with a market valuation of more than £550m.

Countryside Properties sold 755 homes last year, up nearly one-third on 2011, and the average sale price rose £24,000 to £214,000.

In 2012 results just filed with Companies House, Countryside executive chairman Andrew Carr-Locke repeated hopes to attract "further capital… before its planned flotation on the stock market which is likely to be 2015". However, Mr Carr-Locke signed off this statement in January, prior to Oaktree Capital Management buying a 50 per cent stake owned by Lloyds as well as part of the Cherry family's stake. Brothers Graham and Richard Cherry are still directors at the company, their late father Alan having been one of the founders.

It is understood the flotation timetable has been pushed back by a year as Oaktree looks to make further improvements to the business, so that Countryside eventually floats for a bumper price.

The results showed that the group's turnover, including money from joint ventures, was up by nearly £28m to £295.3m last year. However, there was a pre-tax loss of nearly £3.1m, against a profit of more than £3.5m as bleak prospects in the northern division of the business forced a write-down.