PHH Corp. last week put to rest rumors that it might sell its relocation business.
HFS USA, the giant franchiser that is in the car rental, hotel chain, and real estate agency businesses, was reportedly eyeing the PHH unit all summer, and observers said the deal looked like a good fit.
But if PHH was approached, it didn't bite.
"We don't normally comment on rumors," said a PHH spokesman last week. "But this one I will: Our relocation business is not for sale."
There was some speculation that HFS might be seeking all of PHH, but the spokesman dismissed that idea as ridiculous. PHH shares jumped to a high for the year of $29.625 last week, about $3 more than in mid-July.
PHH owns one of the top three relocation businesses in the country. The other two are Coldwell Banker, owned by HFS; and CHA Relocation Management.
Relocators give corporations' transferred employees help in selling their homes and in finding and buying new ones. For PHH's mortgage division, the relocation division is a good source of leads. Other large mortgage companies have also been trying to expand in relocation for this reason.
Though no deal is in the works, the rumors underscored changes in the relocation business. PHH's relocation division has been under pressure in recent years, industry observers said, because of shifts in the way the industry does business.
Corporate relocation players have shifted from operating as independent third-party brokers to an increasing reliance on real estate agencies, said a consultant. "We're approaching a time of transition in this business, and PHH has been kind of slow in recognizing that," he added.
PHH's relocation business is integral to its increased commitment to cross-selling, said Cliff Ransom, one of two Natwest Securities analysts who recently initiated coverage of PHH with a "buy" recommendation.
"They've just begun to cross-sell through telemarketing mortgage products into their relocation business," he said. A company wishing to buy that division might find the price prohibitive, Mr. Ransom added, because of the investment PHH has made in technology.
A spokeswoman for HFS said she could not comment on whether the company had approached PHH but added, "We are actively seeking to grow our relocation business."