Zoopla’s debut safe as houses after stock rises

 
Michael Bow
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PROPERTY portal Zoopla yesterday attracted a host of blue-chip investors to its £900m London stock market debut, helping net its founder £30m.

The company, which priced shares at 220p, saw 38.3 per cent sold to new investors after existing shareholders such as Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) – its biggest owner – and founder Alex Chesterman cashed out part of their stake. The sale gives the company a market cap of £918.8m.

Among the investors taking a stake were hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, which bought 4.3 per cent, and mutual fund giant Standard Life, which now owns 3.6 per cent.

Chesterman, who also founded website LoveFilm, made £32m from the market debut after selling 3.5 per cent of stock.

He and the other selling shareholders, which also include property firm Countrywide, now hold 52.6 per cent of the firm.

Shares closed up 4.5 per cent at 230p yesterday, making the company one of a rare breed of firms to rise on their London stock debut this year.

Bankers priced the shares in the middle of a 200p to 250p range.

The company will now list in the FTSE 250, under the media sector that houses the firm’s main rival Rightmove.

PROFILE: ALEX CHESTERMAN

Chesterman went to St Paul’s School in the 1980s, going on to study economics at University College London. After graduating, he worked at a Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, Florida but just three months later went on to join rival chain Planet Hollywood where became an executive vice-president.

Chesterman left Planet Hollywood in 1999 to found his own bagel company, Bagelmania. But by 2003 he decided to enter the online marketplace by founding ScreenSelect, an online DVD rental company.

In 2006, ScreenSelect merged with LoveFilm to become one of the Europe’s largest DVD retailers. LoveFilm was sold to Amazon in 2011 for £200m. Chesterman founded Zoopla in 2007 with the aim of being “the Google of property searches”.

Part of Zoopla’s success has been Chesterman’s aggressive mergers and acquisitions-based plan to expand its market share. Thinkproperty.com, PropertyFinder Group, Globrix.com and UpMyStreet.com have all been swallowed up since 2009.

Zoopla’s principal shareholders before its listing yesterday included the Daily Mail and General Trust’s DMG Media subsidiary and Atlas Ventures.