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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Countrywide veteran says he could float online agency on the stock market

The former Countrywide chief executive Grenville Turner says it is an option for online estate agency Yopa to go to an Initial Public Offering and be turned into a public company.

Yopa this week announced £16m additional funding, making it a total of £91m invested in the agency since 2016 - and it has yet to make a profit.

However Turner, who this week was named as Yopa’s chairman, has told The Times: “It’s a private company with a number of investors so one of the things you always have on your mind is ‘what are the likely exits for this business’.”

Turner himself was chief executive of Countrywide in 2013 when it returned to the public market. Since stepping down from that company he has served on the boards of Rightmove and Zoopla.

His declaration about a possible IPO came after 48 hours of speculation about Yopa.

On the one hand it secured the additional £16m investment, after a restructuring this year saw job losses at the agency; on the other hand, seasoned observers expressed pessimism that the new funding could alter the essential problem with online agents in a challenging housing market, that they do not necessarily have sufficient volume of transactions and associated income to become profitable.

The pessimists' argument was given weight by the resignation of LSL chief executive Ian Crabb from the Yopa board this week; LSL has declined to invest further in the online business.

Turner gave The Times his take on the recent collapse of some online agencies and the broader difficulties faced by the sector, which has struggled for market share.

“There tends to be a lot of businesses at the start because they are relatively inexpensive to set up but there are very few that get significant traction, partly because you are required to invest in services to get the proposition right” he said.

Purplebricks floated on the stock exchange in late 2015 at 100p a share and is now, almost four years later, on around 125p after falling from a high of almost 500p. Emoov founder Russell Quirk also spoke of a possible IPO for his agency only some months before it was forced into administration when investors failed to deliver promised funding.

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