Zoopla Steps Up £1.3bn Float Plan
The online property group which abandoned a sponsorship deal because of the controversy involving the French footballer Nicolas Anelka is accelerating plans for a flotation valuing it at well over £1bn.
Sky News has learnt that Zoopla, which is terminating its association with the Premier League club West Bromwich Albion at the end of the season, has appointed Jefferies, the investment bank, to work on a stock market listing.
The appointment is understood to have been made last week, just days after Zoopla said it was ending the sponsorship deal over Mr Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture during a match last month.
The property portal, which is benefiting from growing activity in the UK housing market and the shift in classified advertising spending to digital channels, is expected to announce its intention to float within weeks, insiders said on Monday.
It has been working with Credit Suisse, another investment bank, to review its options since last autumn.
In a statement issued to Sky News, a Zoopla spokesman said: "As one of the UK's fastest growing digital businesses, we are working with a number of advisors to explore strategic opportunities as we continue to grow and develop our business in a sustainable way."
Zoopla, which owns the Primelocation website, is Britain's second-largest online property portal behind Rightmove.
The company was founded by its chief executive, Alex Chesterman, who is said to own just under 10% of the shares, meaning his stake is likely to be worth approximately £100m.
DMG Media, a division of Daily Mail & General Trust, owns 51%, with the remainder split between venture capitalists and other senior managers.
Mr Chesterman has been expanding Zoopla in recent months, positioning the company to exploit an upturn in the housing market that is at least partly the result of various Government stimulus programmes such as the Help To Buy scheme.
The initiative, a flagship policy of Prime MInister David Cameron's, has been blamed for fuelling a likely property bubble.
Zoopla earns revenue by charging estate agents fees to advertise properties on its website, although its heady valuation as it prepares to go public is reminiscent of internet companies which floated during the first dotcom boom.
It recently paid just over £3m to acquire four property portals, including SmartNewHomes.co.uk, from Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Mirror newspaper titles.
According to a presentation early last year, Zoopla attracts 30m unique visitors to its sites each month, and forecast that it would grow revenues by more than 50% during the next three years.
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