A HIGH-profile Hampshire estate agents which specialised in selling houses with seven-figure price tags has gone into administration owing more than £1 million.

The name of Penyards, which has eight branches across the county, will not disappear as it has been the subject of a “pre-packaged sale” out of administration.

Penyards Country Properties Ltd has been taken over No.17 Marketing, one of whose directors is Paul Grant, managing partner of Southampton law firm Bernard Chill & Axtell.

Administrators Begbies Traynor sold the firm and its assets for £180,000 to No17 Marketing who will trade as Penyards but have not taken on the old firm’s debts.

According to the administrator’s report it was Mr Grant who first contacted them to discuss Penyards’ financial position The new Penyards advertising states that the company is in partnership with Bernard Chill & Axtell.

Graham and Lisa Evans, the founders of Penyards, who live in Downton, are to be retained as consultants.

HM Revenue and Customs are the biggest creditor of Penyards with the taxman out of pocket to the tune of £422,000.

Other creditors included Lloyds Bank which is owed £232,000.

Lloyds, as the only secured creditor, were consulted by the administrators about the sale and did not raise any objections. Begbies Traynor’s report suggests an anticipated return to Lloyds of just £65,000 to £75,000.

Other creditors include Fareham Borough Council (£4,004), Test Valley Borough Council which is owed almost £11,000 in rates, accountants Wilkins Kennedy (18,282) and the Echo’s parent company Newsquest.

Penyards recorded an operating loss of £131,000 at the end of 2014 and Gavin Savage, director of Begbies Traynor’s Southampton office said that following the crash of 2008 Penyards had been hit by increased competition, lower fees and on line marketing.

The sale means that the jobs of the 32 Penyards staff at its offices in Winchester, Romsey, Stockbridge, Bishop's Waltham, Titchfield, Lyndhurst, Fordingbridge, Burley and London have been saved.

Mr Savage said: “The company had been facing tough trading conditions in a sector we all recognise has continued to struggle, so it was therefore imperative that we acted quickly in order to ensure that people’s jobs were preserved.

“It became apparent to us that the Penyards name trades on its reputation as a long-established business in the area and that a speedy sale out of administration was the best course of action. We had to go through quite a complicated process to get to the right end result, but we are confident that the purchaser has the skills and team in place to ensure growth for the future and to establish the basis for a prosperous long-term future for the company.”

A spokesman for HMRC, the largest creditors, said they did not discuss individual cases, but added: “We don’t just let a debt lie particularly such a large amount.

“Every case is followed and an attempt is made to get as much back into the public purse as possible.”

Penyards Property Management Ltd based at 23 Southgate Street, Winchester, is a separate business which is not in financial difficulties.

Alan and Judith Davis bought the business in 1995 and it now has 500 landlords on its books and 13 members of staff.

Alan Davis, managing director of Penyards Property Management, said: "Penyards Property Management began in 1988 as the lettings department of Penyards Country Properties, the estate agents of the same name, but has operated as a separate business for 21 years since our purchase. Our customers should be assured that business is buoyant at Penyards Property Management.

 "We are very sorry to hear the news about Penyards Country Properties but are pleased that the sale means jobs have been secured. We wish them all the best."