Zoopla in £190m deal for uSwitch
Property website Zoopla is to buy online energy price comparison firm uSwitch for up to £190 million in a deal which brings together two of the country's best-known digital brands.
Zoopla Property Group (ZPG), which owns websites including PrimeLocation and HomesOverseas, said the deal creates a single business where "consumers can research, find and manage their homes".
The final £30 million of the acquisition is dependent on undisclosed sales targets payable at the end of next year.
Zoopla said the enlarged group will boost lead generation for advertisers and offer more frequent user engagement and additional sales opportunities from new products and data.
Comparison site uSwitch, founded in 2000, said its website generated 50.3 million visits last year and wiped off over £112 million from consumer energy bills. It generated sales of £62.9 million and adjusted earnings of £16.2 million in the year to the end of December.
Zoopla said its websites and mobile apps generate 44 million visits a month and in the six months to the end of March it expects to record sales of over £41 million and earnings of around £21 million.
It said the deal is expected to complete by the end of June.
Zoopla founder and chief executive Alex Chesterman said: "This is a transformational acquisition and a meaningful step towards delivering our long-term strategy to be the market-leading resource for consumers and most effective lead generation engine for professionals in the property space."
uSwitch will continue to operate as a standalone brand with its management and chief executive Steve Weller remaining with the business.
Mr Weller said: "Consumers need our support now more than ever before and, with Zoopla's impressive credentials as an innovative, consumer-empowering business, I am confident that we will be able to help even more people save money on their household bills."
Zoopla also published figures today showing that the number of members advertising on its websites fell 16% to 16,076 in the first six months of the year as competition increased after the launch of a new rival Onthemarket.com in January.
Onthemarket.com is owned by Agents' Mutual, which is backed by estate agents such as Savills and Knight Frank, and was set up to challenge the leading two players Zoopla and Rightmove.
But Onthemarket.com only allows members to use it who belong to one of the leading two websites, not both.
Brokers at Edison welcomed Zoopla's move. Analyst Sohil Chotai said: "We believe this is a good step for the company, as it seeks to differentiate itself from Rightmove and compete effectively with new entrant to the property portal market Onthemarket.com."