OnTheMarket - stung by recent lukewarm assessments of its track record - has repeated its faith in letters of intent from agents to resuscitate its rivalry with Zoopla.
Over the weekend OTM was the subject of a critique by the BNP Paribas investment bank, which had previously been optimistic about the portal’s success.
However, William Packer of the media equity research division of BNP Paribas told investors that the “threat of another tranche of member losses to Agents' Mutual [had] reduced” and that with “under 1,000 letters of intent” after several months, it expected the portal status quo to remain - with Agents’ Mutual/OTM at number three.
But yesterday evening OnTheMarket hit back with a statement from chief executive Ian Springett. It reiterated that the portal had “the total support of well over 6,000 estate and letting agent offices,” over 90 per cent of which were contracted.
“The balance is offices which are covered by a non-binding Letter of Intent to join when total support reaches 7,500 offices” says Springett.
He says OTM used the Letter of Intent process to gather the portal’s initial 1,800 gold member offices in 2013 and this was also part of the process to add over 2,800 silver and gold member offices in 2014.
“The rate of conversion to contract in both cases exceeded 80 per cent indicating that locally-based, full service agents want Agents' Mutual to succeed and simply need to see that sufficient scale has been reached - nationally and locally to them - before entering a contract” he says.
Springett adds that OTM’s latest Letter of Intent programme “is now snowballing” and that the portal is entering 2016 “intent on overtaking Zoopla Property Group in terms of UK available property listings.”
His statement singles out Zoopla chief executive Alex Chesterman and eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk for criticism. It then concludes by saying: “Our direction of travel is clear and with the strong support of high street agency, we remain as focused as ever on reaching our full potential - a sustainably low-cost alternative to Rightmove.”
The statement makes no direct reference to the BNP Paribas critique, nor to the description of OnTheMarket made by a City correspondent in the Sunday Times: “A juggernaut, it is not.”