LJ Hooker to head overseas?

Real estate agency LJ Hooker is reportedly on the market, with interested parties likely to be from the United States or Asia.

Rumours abound that Lazard Australia is acting as a broker for the sale, which many real estate pundits believe will result in offering the franchise for sale on the international market.

LJ Hooker has more than 700 franchise offices in Australia and New Zealand.

A spokesperson from Lazard declined to comment, but added that as companies grow they need to consider their options.

A spokesman from LJ Hooker confirmed the real estate franchise is looking for "investment opportunities which support the network’s vision for growth".

“When LJ Hooker was acquired from Suncorp in late 2009, it was done so by a group of investors with an investment horizon of three to five years,” the spokesperson said.

“As that period approached, LJ Hooker has appointed a corporate adviser to manage the process whereby original shareholders can consider an opportunity to realise a return on their investments.

“A majority of shareholders remain committed to LJ Hooker.”

Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson said LJ Hooker had been innovative in terms of leveraging its strengths in the marketplace and said recent management changes and re-branding have led the franchise group to become very pro-active in terms of new initiatives.

The strong Sydney market may even be a driver for the sale.

 “We are certainly in an era now of technological changes to do with property marketing in a fluid environment that is leading cultural change, and sub-drivers such as the strong Sydney market mean these factors are working towards a big change in the industry," said Dr Wilson.

“Maybe it’s the nature of enterprises and structure and the strong digital marketplace and part of the process of growth.”

Former LJ Hooker director and current president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) Malcolm Gunning said Greg Paramor - LJ Hooker's chairman - has seen the ideal opportunity to be able to sell the company on the back of a hot property market.

Mr Gunning said LJ Hooker is seen as a market leader and it would seem if shareholders are to cash in and capitalise, there is no better time to sell the business model and intellectual property as it is "as good as it is going to get".

“We may see one of the major American realtors buy as an opportunistic purchase - we may see a merger … but if an international investor wanted a major presence in NZ and Australia, then LJ Hooker is a logical purchase,” Mr Gunning said.

“Then again, they may get another service provider bidding since Suncorp did own the company, or we may see another aligned business such as landlord or property insurance… International investors would, I think, show interest here to form an alliance with the business in Australia.”

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