in the know

Shock as Countrywide sells almost half its stake

Countrywide has sold almost half its shares in Zoopla.

This morning Zoopla announced to the stock exchange its investments in four proptech start-ups.

The UK’s largest property chain has sold 8,659,302 shares in the portal business for a price of 220p per share.

The announcement was made after close of stock market trading yesterday.

Gross proceeds realised by Countrywide will be £19.1m.

Following the disposal, Countrywide continues to hold 9,234,473 Zoopla shares representing 2.2% of Zoopla’s ordinary shares.

Details of the use of proceeds from the disposal will be provided at the time of the Countrywide preliminary results on February 25.

According to the statement to the City, Countrywide has a long-term strategic partnership with Zoopla. Countrywide said it will continue to work closely with Zoopla in the future.

Yesterday, it was announced that Countrywide led a deal with Connells and Zoopla to invest in proptech firm Fixflo.

This morning, Zoopla announced a total of four deals to the stock market, including its investment in Fixflo.

The other three Zoopla deals are with Trussle, an online mortgage adviser; Landbay, a peer-to-peer lender for property which will allow Zoopla users to invest in the UK residential property market from as little as £100; and PropertyDetective, a provider of property and neighbourhood research reports, which will provide more in-depth property data to Zoopla users and agents.

Alex Chesterman, founder and CEO of ZPG, said: ““We are delighted to announce our investments and partnerships with these exciting companies that will help us to further differentiate our offering for both our users and partners. These deals confirm our ongoing commitment to leading innovation and nurturing UK technology entrepreneurs and together with our ongoing internal product developments will continue to see us leading the way across the property space.”

The City has started to react both to news of Countrywide’s disposal of almost half its shares in Zoopla, and to Zoopla’s new investments.

This morning Exane analyst William Packer said: “Countrywide have disclosed overnight the halving of their stake in Zoopla to circa 2%.

“This decision comes around 20 months after listing with the Zoopla share price below IPO price (and well below Rightmove on a relative basis) – although we note the placing price is at 220p in line with the IPO price. In our view, Countrywide’s decision reflects the sustainability of the new competitive equilibrium.

“We see Agents’ Mutual as here to stay as the number three player and the hoped-for sharp rebound in Zoopla membership is unlikely to occur in the near term.

“As a reminder, in the early stages of development Zoopla handed a significant stake to the largest listed estate agents (including Countrywide) to obtain their inventory for the new portal. Zoopla subsequently merged with DMGT-owned DPG and finally listed circa 50% of its shares. Zoopla separately have also announced some small investments in property tech start-ups including Fixflo

“We rate Zoopla neutral.”