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NEW YORK CITY-Following several major merger transactions this year on the commercial side, Realogy Corp., a real estate franchisor, has agreed to be acquired by Apollo Management LP for $9 billion. The merger, which has already been approved by Realogy’s board of directors, is subject to shareholder approval

The $9 billion includes $1.6 billion in debt assumption and $30 per share in cash. According to a press release issued about the transaction, The price is an 18% premium over Friday’s closing stock price and a 26% premium over the company’s average stock price since Realogy separated from Cendant Corp. on August 1, 2006.

“After careful consideration, our board of directors has concluded that this transaction is in the best interests of Realogy and out stockholders,” says Henry Silverman, chairman and CEO of Realogy, in a statement. “It will enable stockholders to realize the value of Realogy’s fundamentally strong businesses. At the same time, the valuation takes into account the substantial pressures and uncertainties facing the residential real estate markets that may well continue for some time.”

Shareholders are expected to vote on the merger in the spring, with the closing of the deal to follow soon after that. Prior to the final shareholder vote, Realogy executives say they will continue to entertain competing bids for the company until February 14, 2007.

The merger of Realogy and Apollo comes after months of other commercial mergers. Earlier in the month, shareholders of Reckson Associates Realty Corp. approved the $6 billion merger with SL Green Realty Corp. after weeks of drama surrounding the transaction.

In late November, Equity Office Properties Trust agreed to be acquired by Blackstone Group for $36 billion. Also Lexington Corporate Properties Trust agreed to merge with Newkirk Realty Trust Inc. for $4.6 billion in November.

Trammell Crow Co.’s shareholders voted today to approve its $2 billion merger with CB Richard Ellis.

In November at NYU’s 39th Annual Conference on Capital Markets in Real Estate, EOP’s said REITs will continue to go private in part because the private market values the companies more than the public market does. “In the ‘90s we saw everyone going public,” Zell said at the event. “Now a significant number of companies are being taken private. It’s all about liquidity. This is not a short-term phenomenon. There will be excess capital over the next five to 10 years.”

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