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Shareholders in Countrywide, Britain’s largest estate agency group, agreed at a meeting this morning to sell the business to Apollo, the US private equity group. However, 3i has until the deal, structured as a scheme of arrangement, is sanctioned by the High Court on May 1 to come back and gazump Apollo. As if Countrywide would ever entertain such a thought. Our man, Jim Pickard, was in the meeting and will have some interesting things to report from it in tomorrow’s paper.

We’ll also check out the story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal that Cott, the Canadian drinks group, is interested in Cadbury Schweppes’s beverage business. Makes sense.

William Hill continues to expand abroad, this time in Greece. A day before the Grand National, this quite small story is hard to resist.

Goldman Sachs have been brought in to advise Dutch bank ABN Amro on whether the deal being hammered out with Barclays is fair. All the senior Barclays executives seemed very cheerful at finance director Naguib Kheraj’s leaving drinks this week. Yet, as we reported this morning, that deal is not without complications and personally I think Barclays may fail, not least because of ABN’s rising share price, as discussed in Lombard this morning. On the other hand, as FT Alphaville points out today, if Goldman thought a rival team had a real chance of breaking up the party surely they would try to join up with them. Perhaps they did and were turned away. All very interesting, as is this not totally silly rumour that JP Morgan might pounce on Barclays if its ABN bid collapses.

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