Belfast Telegraph

Countrywide sells remaining stake in Zoopla for £29.2m

Estate agency Countrywide has cashed in more than £29 million after selling its remaining stake in property website Zoopla.

Countrywide said it sold the stake over the past six weeks at an average price of £3.17 in a move that sees the group capitalise on a surge in Zoopla's shares, which have risen by 57% over the past year.

The move comes after Countrywide sold almost half its 4.1% Zoopla shareholding in February for £19.1 million, having already offloaded a 2.2% stake at the time of Zoopla's stock market flotation in 2014.

Countrywide said it will use the £29.2 million proceeds from the latest share sale "to reduce corporate indebtedness and for other general corporate purposes".

It was one of three estate agents that struck a long-term strategic partnership with Zoopla in 2010, alongside LSL Property Services and Connells Group.

The tie-up saw them agree to advertise all of their properties on Zoopla and provide additional marketing and advisory support.

Zoopla endured a bumpy start to life as a listed company, with its shares sinking below its initial float price within six months as it came under pressure after the launch of rival

OnTheMarket allowed its own members to belong to one of the other two search sites - Rightmove and Zoopla - but not both, causing Zoopla's membership numbers to slump.

But Zoopla has since staged a turnaround, making a series of acquisitions, including a transformational deal to snap up price comparison site uSwitch last year.

This was followed by the £75 million takeover of the Property Software Group, which gave it access to back-office software used in 8,000 estate agency branches across the UK.

Zoopla has seen its profits rocket higher thanks to the uSwitch deal and upped its earnings outlook earlier this month, having posted a 58% surge in first-half profits to £22.6 million in May thanks to record revenues.

Countrywide said it would " continue to enjoy a long-term relationship with Zoopla, which will be unaffected by the sale of shares".

A spokesman added: "We have worked with the team at Zoopla for many years and look forward to continuing to do so in the future.

"Zoopla remains an important business partner for Countrywide and plays a crucial role in ensuring we maximise exposure of our property listings in the best interest of our customers."