The Property Franchise Group has approached Hunters about a possible takeover.
Confirmation came this morning in a statement from Hunters, which you can see below.
Both TPFG and Hunters are quoted on the London Stock Exchange and under market rules, TPFG now has until January 1 to confirm its offer formally. Hunters is chaired by prominent backbench Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake and has some 200 franchised branches across the UK and is worth around £20m.
But in market capitalisation terms, TPFG is more than double the size of Hunters and has some 300 branches.
TPFG runs six agency brands: Martin & Co, a national lettings-focused brand; the hybrid EweMove; the CJ Hole agency which is prominent in parts of south west England; Ellis & Co in London; Parkers operating along the M4 corridor; and Whitegates which has branches across the Midlands and the north of the UK.
Glynis Frew, chief executive of Hunters, has told Sky News: "As a leading national estate agency group with significant growth ambitions, it is routine for Hunters to consider new opportunities on an ongoing basis, any number of which may or may not come to fruition.
"In addition to this opportunity presented to us by The Property Franchise Group plc, we are soon to launch the SKIPA technology platform, which we believe is an industry disruptor that will further drive efficiency and improve customer service across the business."
This morning's trading statement from Hunters, to its shareholders, says: "Hunters Property plc notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it has received a preliminary approach from The Property Franchise Group plc regarding a possible offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Hunters.
"The approach is preliminary, and the terms remain subject to ongoing discussion and to due diligence by both Hunters and TPFG. Accordingly, there can be no certainty that an offer will be made nor as to the terms of any offer, if made.
"A further announcement will be made when appropriate.
"In accordance with Rule 2.6(a) of the Code, TPFG is required, by not later than 5.00 p.m. on 1 January 2021, to either announce a firm intention to make an offer for the Company in accordance with Rule 2.7 of the Code or announce that it does not intend to make an offer for the Company, in which case the announcement will be treated as a statement to which Rule 2.8 of the Code applies. This deadline can be extended with the consent of the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers in accordance with Rule 2.6(c) of the Code."
A similar statement has been made by TPFG to its shareholders.
The TPFG approach for Hunters comes just as Countrywide is undertaking discussions on its future following an approach from Connells and a rival investment bid from a private equity company, Alchemy Partners.