Zoopla remains unbowed by its loss of 23 per cent of its UK agents and says it has new statistics proving that listings and new instructions for agency branches advertising on OnTheMarket have been steadily falling since the start of the year.
It claims that analysis by ZPG into agency inventories between September 2014 and March 2015 reveals that the market share of new instructions for OTM members has fallen by over 15 per cent. During the same period, agents that have remained with both Zoopla and Rightmove have seen their level of new instructions stay at the same level, it says.
Zoopla also claims that its data highlights that whilst the absolute number of agreed sales declined 4.0 per cent during this period, those agents listings on both Rightmove and ZPG saw their levels of sold properties increase by 15 per cent.
It also says “some agents” who joined OTM have seen their number of sales agreed “drop by as much as 10 per cent” during the period.
“The data shows that the majority of agents who have remained with the market-leading portals are in a far stronger position and are growing their market share. It is no coincidence that we have already seen dozens of members return to ZPG having quit OTM due to the negative impact on their business” says Zoopla Property Group communications chief Lawrence Hall.
Zoopla’s shares closed down 2.87 per cent at the end of trading yesterday - a relatively modest fall given the scale of its agency losses, revealed in ZPG’s six-monthly trading statement issued yesterday morning.
According to respected city analysis website The Motley Fool, the price fall was limited “probably because the firm’s operating profit rose by 12 per cent to £18.2m during the first half of the current financial year, which ended in March. The firm achieved this feat by extracting more money from each advertiser. The average monthly revenue per advertiser (ARPA) rose by 13 per cent to £340 during the first half of this year.”
Investors Chronicle’s response to the news was that: “The worst of OnTheMarket's impact on Zoopla may now be over: it lost just 106 UK agents in April, and management expects departures to return to normal levels this year. Zoopla's recently agreed purchase of uSwitch, a fast-growing price-comparison site for energy and communications, will also diversify the business.”
Sohil Chotai, analyst at Edison Investment Research, told the Financial Times that Zoopla faced “near-term headwinds” adding that “Zoopla is at a disadvantage to Rightmove as it generates fewer leads, but it has a larger inventory than OnTheMarket, as well as having spent significant sums on marketing to create customer awareness.”
Meanwhile a lengthy statement by OnTheMarket chief executive Ian Springett has repeatedthe claim that the new portal is here to stay.
"Without more detail of this [latest] Zoopla 'analysis' it is hard to take it seriously and it seems simply to be another desperate set of unsubstantiated claims geared to stemming the flow of agents away from it as they join OnTheMarket. The claims are directly contrary to the consistent feedback that leaving Zoopla has made no difference to instruction-winning capability.
"The claims also seem to be at odds with announcements recently by Countrywide and LSL, both major shareholders in ZPG and with some 1400 offices between them listed on Zoopla. As recently as April 30 it was reported that for first quarter 2015 compared with first quarter 2014, Countrywide experienced a 13 per cent fall in exchanges and LSL saw income from sales fall 15 per cent.”