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‘Distress funds’ buy Countrywide

Guardian Unlimited – Three "distressed debt investors" – hedge fund Polygon, restructuring specialist Oaktree and private equity firm Alchemy – have taken control of Countrywide, Britain’s biggest residential estate agent, which was bought by US private equity firm Apollo less than two years ago for about £1bn, mostly financed by debt. Together, they have taken a majority stake for one-third of the price paid by Apollo.

Distressed debt investors, which specialise in buying financial instruments relating to troubled companies at rock-bottom prices, have been saying for two years that buying debt on the "secondary market" – where company loans are traded after the original lender has sold the debt on – was too expensive. Now, they appear to be judging it the right time to move back in.

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