3i sets sights on Foxtons

The London-listed private equity firm is still hopeful of acquiring a UK estate agent after seeing its recent attempt to buy Countrywide fail.

3i has thrown its hat into the ring in the auction for London estate agency Foxtons, according to a source close to the situation.

3i, which recently had its bid for estate agency Countrywide rejected, is understood to be among the firms that are bidding for Foxtons, which is owned by entrepreneur Jon Hunt. Credit Suisse, which is managing the process, is thought to be seeking bids of upwards of £400 million (€596.5 million;$785 million).

Hunt appointed Credit Suisse in November to examine options for a disposal. The bank is understood to be managing a parallel-track process of trade sale or initial public offering.

Foxtons has a reputation in the property world for the hard-sell tactics of its staff. In 2006, Foxtons and its mortgage advisory firm Alexander Hall, featured in a BBC documentary questioning various  practices. The company denied any wrongdoing.

3i’s interest comes three weeks after it failed to win shareholder backing for a £970 million (€1.4 billion) management buyout of Countrywide, the UK’s largest chain of estate agents.

Foxtons was founded in 1981 and has branches in fashionable London areas including Park Lane. The company runs around 20 branches mainly in west and south west London and also 18 branches in Surrey, a county to the south of London