REA Group deal confirms strength of Asean online scene, says Catcha
Deal came about after meeting between Patrick Grove and Rupert Murdoch
ONLINE investment firm Catcha Group has announced that REA Group, an affiliate of News Corp, has acquired a 17.22% stake in its portfolio company, iProperty Group.
The US$100-million deal, which was inked on July 28, is one of the largest investments ever made in an Asean-based Internet company, Catcha Group said in a statement.
The transaction valued iProperty at approximately US$600 million, making it the most highly valued publicly traded Internet company in Asean and effectively places REA Group as iProperty Group’s second largest shareholder.
Catcha Group remains its largest shareholder.
REA acquired its stake from SeLoger.com SA, a unit of German media group Axel Springer and operator of France's biggest property classifieds portal.
SeLoger had first acquired a 9.4% stake in iProperty in June 2011 for A$8.9 million (US$8.3 million at current exchange rates), increasing this to a 16.1% stake in November that same year.
According to PropertyPortalWatch, SeLoger said that it decided to sell its interest in iProperty because it was not possible to gain a strategic majority, and also because it wanted to focus more on the European market in the future.
With the divestment, SeLoger realises a profit of around €55 million (US$74 million), the portal added.
iProperty Group is the owner and operator of a network of property websites, and was floated on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in September 2007 at A$0.25 per share. The Monday announcement saw shares in iProperty surge by 18.37% to A$3.69.
[A$1 – US$0.94]
Last November, when its share price hit A$2, iProperty achieved a market capitalisation of just over RM1.07 billion (US$336.4 million), 15 times its original market capitalisation.
The iProperty-REA deal was discussed in New York last month when Catcha Group cofounder and group chief executive officer (CEO) Patrick Grove met with News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch to discuss collaborative opportunities in emerging markets.
REA Group, operator of realestate.com.au, is 61.1% owned by News Corp and is one of the largest online property portals in the world with a market capitalisation of A$6.22 billion (US$5.84 billion), Catch Group said in its statement.
The acquisition would provide REA with a strategic foothold in the region and complement its existing online real estate businesses in Hong Kong and China.
Catcha Group claims a portfolio of online assets in excess of US$1 billion.
“South-East Asia offers tremendous potential for growth [with] its growing middle class, strong economy, and high Internet and smartphone penetration,” said Grove (pic).
“It makes absolute sense for investors to seek out companies that have already establishing market-leading positions in the region,” he added.
In addition to iProperty Group, Catcha Group is also the major shareholder of ASX-listed iCar Asia, which operates a network of online automotive sites; and is a key shareholder in leading property portal group, propertyfinder.ae.
It is also the major shareholder of Bursa Malaysia-listed Rev Asia Bhd and ASX-listed iBuy Group, which owns and operates a network of e-commerce websites.
Investors in Catcha Group portfolio companies include Rebate Networks GmBH, Star Media Group (Malaysia) and Intel Capital.
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