One of Britain’s oldest independent property agents could be about to fall into French hands.
Strutt & Parker, which specialises in selling high-end homes in London and the country as well as managing farmland, is in talks with banking giant BNP Paribas.
A takeover would be a major vote of confidence in the British property market by one of Europe’s leading banks following the Brexit vote.
All change? Strutt & Parker specialises in selling high-end homes in London and the country as well as managing farmland
But it would also see one of the UK’s most prestigious land management and estate agency firms in foreign hands.
Strutt & Parker – or Strutts as it is known – was set up by school friends Edward Strutt and Charles Parker in 1885 to manage large estates in the east of England. It is still privately owned, by 53 equity partners, who would share the proceeds of any sale.
The company saw profits dive 35 per cent to £18.3 million last year as it grappled with falling prices of high-end London houses following a hike in stamp duty on expensive homes.
Its 53 partners shared £16.2 million last year – giving them an average of more than £300,000 each – while the 864 staff earned an average of around £60,000.
The best-paid partner, thought to be senior partner Andy Martin, saw his earnings fall from £1.1 million in 2015 to £606,000 last year. The 60-year-old is standing down this year.
Discussions between Strutts and BNP Paribas Real Estate, the bank’s property arm, are understood to have been ongoing for a number of months.
The French lender is keen to buy the Strutts commercial arm but may join forces with another group to take on the residential estate agency business.
Sales of expensive homes and country estates have slowed since the EU referendum and tax hikes introduced by George Osborne, who raised stamp duty on homes worth more than £937,500, hitting vast swathes of the London housing market and country homes.
The increase has pushed the stamp duty on a £2 million home up by £53,750 to £153,750 while the levy on a £5 million home has gone up by £163,750 to £513,750. The buyer of the £30 million townhouse Strutts is selling in Chelsea will have to pay more than £3.5 million in stamp duty.
Osborne also introduced a three percentage point increase in stamp duty for landlords and second home owners.
But BNP, which has 7,500 staff in the UK, is understood to be keen to increase its exposure to the British property market. The UK is real estate’s third-biggest market behind France and Germany.
Strutt & Parker and BNP Paribas declined to comment.