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PHH buys relocation service Firm seeks growth in market share


Handling corporate transfers of employees is hardly a growth industry for the 1990s.

But PHH Corp. yesterday completed an acquisition designed to increase its market share in the field.

For an undisclosed sum, PHH Homequity, a subsidiary of the Hunt Valley company, acquired the assets of Better Homes & Gardens Family Relocation Service Inc.

"It fits in nicely with our organization because in many cases their offices are located close to our offices," said Harvey Auger, president of PHH Homequity, based in Wilton, Conn.

PHH Homequity could close some offices of Better Homes & Gardens Family Relocation but expects to hold on to the employees and clients of the firm, Mr. Auger said.

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, and a subsidiary of the Meredith Corp., a large real estate chain, Better Homes & Gardens Family Relocation counts 145 corporations as its clients.

Those clients will be added to the 850 on the PHH relocation list, Mr. Auger said.

In terms of the numbers of corporate-sponsored transfers that it handles, Better Homes & Gardens Family Relocation is relatively small, Mr. Auger acknowledged.

In 1990, it helped move 1,700 households -- compared with 30,000 corporate moves assisted by PHH Homequity.

But Mr. Auger said that the acquisition could be an important step for PHH because it set up what it and Meredith Corp. are calling "a network relationship agreement."

This will mean that Meredith's large network of real estate agents will be available to help with transferring employees of PHH Homequity's client companies, said Donna Startzel, a PHH spokeswoman.

Despite the recession, the number of corporate transfers handled by PHH Homequity within the United States has remained relatively stable at about 30,000 a year, said Keith Bisogno, a PHH spokesman.

Although corporations have downscaled during difficult economic times, mergers, acquisitions and consolidations continue to cause many corporate-sponsored transfers, he said.

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