Coldwell Banker, part of the real estate unit of Cendant Corp. of New York, said this week that it plans to open commercial and residential offices in 12 European countries.

Coldwell Banker signed a franchise agreement with Triomphe Partners Inc. to open offices in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. The offices, expected to open in the first half of 2000, will operate under Coldwell Banker's name.

With higher interest rates slowing some sectors of the U.S. housing market, the European market is gaining allure for U.S. real estate companies. Indeed, a panel discussion of opportunities on the continent -- specifically Russia and Ireland -- is scheduled for the Realtors National Convention and Expo, which opens today in Orlando.

Coldwell Banker said strong home sales in the European Union and growth in franchising in the real estate market were key reasons for the European undertaking.

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