Foxtons set to double in size as it pushes to raise £55 million


London's most aggressive estate agent Foxtons today said it would double in size over the next five years as it announced plans to raise £55 million next month.

Foxtons, renowned for its fleet of branded Minis and its tough sales tactics, will return to public markets after a six-year absence, using the cash to clear debts as majority owner BC Partners capitalises on a housing recovery and soaring prices in the capital.

The agent, founded by Jon Hunt in 1981, has 42 branches, all but two of which are in London. But the company said in float documents today it had identified “at least 60 additional local markets” and plans to open up to 10 branches a year between 2014 and 2018.

“There is also the potential to expand into the South-east of England in the longer term,” it added. Management, including chief executive Michael Brown, has a 20% stake in the business, which could be valued at up to £100 million following the float. Foxtons itself could be valued at £500 million.

The sale comes against the backdrop of the biggest rise in UK house prices since 2006 last month, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, buoyed by support for the mortgage market from the Bank of England and the Treasury. Foxtons’ key market is selling homes ranging in value from £200,000 and £1.4 million, which accounted for 78% of all sales in London last year. The agent achieved an average of 96% of clients’ asking prices, enabling it to charge premium commission rates of 2.5%. Between January 2011 and December 2012, Foxtons sold one in every three homes sold in the City, one in four in Ladbroke Grove and one in every five flats sold in Chelsea. BC Partners is beating the rush to market in a busy autumn expected to feature the privatisation of Royal Mail as well as the sale of part of the taxpayer’s 39% stake in Lloyds Banking Group.

The private-equity firm bought the company from Hunt at the peak of the housing market in 2007 for £360 million but business plunged in the wake of the credit crunch. BC Partners ceded control in 2010, before taking majority ownership again last year with a  £50 million cash injection.

A clutch of City advisers have been drafted in on the float. Credit Suisse and Numis Securities will be the joint book-runners on the offering.