City ‘activist investment firm’ Catalist Partners has taken a 2% stake in Foxtons in a bid to persuade the estate agency to change its business strategy amid criticism that it is under-performing.
The move comes a week after it criticised CEO Nic Budden’s proposed £1 million bonus as ill-timed given the £4 million of public funds received by the agency to help it survive Covid.
Catalist says Foxtons current direction of travel will not enable the agency to regain its lost market share and halt what it claims is the agency’s under performance, code in City circles for a company that’s ripe for a takeover bid.
Instead, it says the estate agency should open new branches outside London, promote its star brokers and fight harder to win market share in sales, lettings and new homes off competitors such as Knight Frank and Savills.
Followers of Countrywide’s recent transition from PLC to private limited company will be familiar with Catalist, whose founder is key industry figure Robin Paterson.
It bought up 10% of Countrywide’s shares and was one of several industry organisations to oppose its sale to City investment fund Alchemy and its taking on more debt.
Paterson (pictured) has today told The Times that although Foxtons pioneered many aspects of today’s estate agency sector during the 1990s and noughties including café-style branches, late opening and branded car fleets, the company has stagnated since the 2010.
The agency was sold by founder Jon Hunt in 2007 for £390 million.
It faces a likely shareholder revolt this Thursday when institutional investors will be asked to vote through its annual results. Two – Glass Lewis and ISS – have said they will oppose Budden’s bonus package as it currently stands.