Zoopla share price jumps as it fights off competition from OntheMarket

 
Emma Haslett
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Zoopla is a sponsor of West Bromwich Albion (Source: Getty)

OntheMarket? What OntheMarket? Shares in online property portal Zoopla jumped 4.6 per cent to 265.9p in mid-morning trade, after it announced it was back to growth in the second half, with membership bouncing back following what looks increasingly like a blip.

The figures

Zoopla may have been hit by competition in its last results, but in a trading update this morning it said membership had bounced back, with 213 net new estate agent branches joining the party between the beginning of April and the end of July, bringing its total UK agency members to 12,556.

Elsewwhere, it added 2,672 new home development members, 684 overseas members and 219 commercial members, taking its total number of members at the end of the period to 16,131.

Meanwhile, listings inventory rose seven per cent, from 828,000 to 882,000.

Why it's interesting

The war of the online property portals has heated up in recent months, after the launch of estate-agent run OntheMarket.com, whose rules dictate that its members can use it and one other property search site - either Rightmove or Zoopla. In results posted in May, it looked like Zoopla was losing the fight: it had lost nearly a quarter of its members, it admitted. To compound things, shortly afterwards bitter rival Rightmove unveiled figures showing listings had risen 10 per cent year-on-year. Ouch.

But today's update suggests after the initial fall, Zoopla is beginning to recover. It's still one of the UK's most visited websites, Zoopla said, with 45.6m monthly visits. And mobile devices accounted for 60 per cent of visits during the period, up 11 per cent on last year.

The company has also diversified in recent months: in April, it spent £160m on energy price comparison site uSwitch. Today it said that deal had been completed, and the site remained the UK's "#1" price comparison site. So that's nice.

Analysts at Jefferies said Zoopla's future was increasingly rosy.

"In our view the net growth and reduced churn of agency branches demonstrates that those that left the platform to join OntheMarket have found it wanting. Over the next 12 months we expect many of the 3,000 or so Zoopla leavers to return," they said.

What Zoopla said

Chief executive and founder Alex Chesterman, who has agreed to remain in situ for the next four years, said:

With the acquisition of uSwitch now complete and the business performing well, we are focused on developing our combined services to provide consumers with a single resource for all their property needs which will serve to further enhance our user engagement and create a greater competitive advantage for our advertisers.
We have come a long way since our launch just seven years ago, but there still remains so much more to do that I am incredibly excited about. I am delighted to be able to fully commit to [Zoopla] for the long-term and deliver the growth strategy of the group.

In short

Although the company was hit by the launch of OntheMarket.com, it's beginning to look like those effects were short-term.

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