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Winkworth Seeks Aim Flotation To Fund Expansion

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Winkworth, the London-based estate agency, is defying the worst housing market since the Second World War to launch a flotation on the Alternative Investment Market that can, in turn, fund an expansion across Britain and into India and the Far East.

The agency, which was started by Simon Agace in an office on Curzon Street in Mayfair in 1975 and which specialised in finding hotels, property investments and homes for wealthy individuals from the Middle East, hopes to come to the market in the autumn.

Winkworth was one of the first estate agents in Britain to adopt a franchise model. As such, it does not own the 85 offices that trade under its name. Instead, it licenses its brand and marketing services to independent estate agents and, in return, takes about 8 per cent of their turnover. This would be £80,000 from a franchise-holder with £1 million of revenue.

Its rivals are struggling under a weight of debt that stems from private equity takeovers. In February Countrywide, which owns Mann & Co and Bairstow Eves, agreed a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders that included a £1.6 billion injection of rescue cash from Oaktree Capital Management. Foxtons, whose founder John Hunt sold at the height of the boom in 2007 to BC Partners, the private equity group, for £270 million, is thought to have breached its bank covenants and has been in talks with its lenders about a debt-for-equity swap.

Yep the best time to expand an estate agents.

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