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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

What next for Purplebricks after latest international sell-off?

Purplebricks’ sale of its Canadian operation for some £35m begs the question - where can it now recoup some of its losses as it remains a UK-only business?

In July 2018 it acquired its Canadian equivalent online agency DuProprio for around £29m and went on to create a UK-style operation, albeit with a different pricing structure for customers.

Now its sale for £35m - to a Canadian financial group called Desjardins - comes after the ignominious collapse of its Australian and US businesses, and marks the end of Purplebricks as an international player. 

The sale of Purplebricks’ Canadian activities, announced when the London Stock Exchange closed last evening, gives the struggling hybrid agency a major cash boost, increasing the company’s money at the bank to £66m. 

It comes also just as Purplebricks’ founder - Michael Bruce, who left the agency a year ago - has set up his own portal-style operation called Launch B; this has had only limited exposure so far, with few details made public, but it makes much play of its links with Purplebricks.

Purplebricks has had a number of shocks recently.

Firstly its market share has remained stubbornly at between three and five per cent, depending which measure and index you choose.

Secondly its high-profile sponsorship of TeamGB for the August 2020 Olympics took a hammering when the Games were postponed for a year.

And thirdly, Andreas Wiele - a key board member who joined Purplebricks in 2018 as a representative of the German-based Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest digital publishing companies - stood down last month.

Wiele joined as Springer invested some £125m in the company in spring 2018, including a £100m subscription for new shares in order to accelerate the company’s roll-out in the US - one of the agency’s overseas enterprise that quickly ended in failure. 

Below you can find the full announcement of the latest Purplebricks sell-off.

"Purplebricks, the leading UK hybrid estate agency business, today announces that it has completed the disposal of its Canadian business, which includes the DuProprio and Purplebricks Canada operations, to the Desjardins Group, a Canadian cooperative financial group, for cash proceeds of $60.5m Canadian Dollars (approximately £35m), subject to minor adjustments for completion working capital and completion debt, and which includes repayment of intra-Group debt owed by PBDP to be repaid to Purplebricks immediately following completion.

"The disposal of PBDP simplifies the Group's operations and fits with its strategy of focusing on its core market in the UK, where there is substantial opportunity to grow its market-leading hybrid model. Following receipt of proceeds, the Group will hold a net cash balance of £66m. The net proceeds will be used to further strengthen the Group's financial position and invest in its UK business.

"The agreement for sale includes customary terms and conditions for a transaction of this nature, including customary representations, warranties and indemnities given by Purplebricks to the Desjardins Group as well as certain restrictive covenants provided by both Purplebricks and the Desjardins Group.  Purplebricks will grant PBDP a licence to continue to use the Purplebricks brand in Canada for a transitional period until December 2021.

"PBDP had an adjusted operating loss of £(2.8)m for the 10 months ended  30 April 20191  and the book value of its gross assets as at 31 October 2019 was £11.4m.

"Vic Darvey, Chief Executive Officer commented: 'Over the last 14 months, Purplebricks has reset its strategy to give the Company a strong foundation for the next phase of its growth. The Company's hybrid, digitally enabled model is more relevant than ever and this simplification of the business will allow management to focus its time and the Company's resources on delivering growth in the core UK market. The Board wishes the teams at DuProprio and Purplebricks Canada the very best in their new venture - and I would like to thank them personally for the collaboration and mutual sharing of knowledge and expertise over the last couple of years.'"

Poll: Will Purplebricks still be operating at the end of 2021?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Graham Norwood I actually ticked yes Purplebricks would be operating at the end of 2021, and it was interesting to see that at 6.23 am so early the survey was 50/50. With an uptick in the market due to the actions of the Chancellor and priming the fiscal pump with a SDLT shot in the arm, listings will be up, so revenue will be up for Purplebricks.

    But that cash burn, that as an analyst I have been banging on about never goes away, and this is the online agents big problem, the media cost, those Olympic adverts that digital advertising spend costs well too much. The 35M is an interesting sum, roughly what Countrywide is looking to scoop from selling off its commercial silverware for.

    The difference between the two is Countrywide needs 35M to pay the salaries and stave off the creditors who nervously eye the 95M black hole of debt this lumbering dinosaur carries, whereas Purplebricks may be an agency lite model, but it has zero debt on its spreadsheet, it has never paid a dividend either but that is a different story.

    If you need more insight into the market or to know what is really going on with the silent and efficient proptech revolution, underpinning the post pandemic real estate market give me a call 07535 029676.

  • adrian black

    It's going to be a really interesting 6 to 12 months - some very big plays, realignments, revisions of strategies and big strategic partnerships and investments, buckle up those seatbelts !!!

  • Simon Shinerock

    For those who want the short version. Purple Bricks isn’t estate agency lite, it’s classified advertising reinvented, a way for private sellers to access the portals through a third party with a tech twist. Ultimately it fails because of three reasons, it requires costly salespeople, it requires costly advertising and it appeals to a relatively small demographic, all of which boil down to cost. The future of private sales will be.... private sales, a much cheaper more transparent process. Turning to estate agency, estate agents version of ‘woke’ is they have woken up to what they have always been, middle men whose job it is to add value. This means launching properties not merely listing them. Open market portal marketing is becoming phase two, only used or needed where phase one fails. If you don’t know what phase one is right now you better find out fast because it’s the future of mainstream estate agency

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    The one thing I’ve never understood about the high street v online if pb only have 5% market why do the high street spend so much time talking about them surely if they are so insignificant why does anyone care?

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    Never got their value prop other than cheaper.
    As for the name ???

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    Makes sense to streamline and double down in a market where you have proven profitability and further opportunity to grow.

    PB's Team GB sponsorship is excellent - proven consideration-driving media and, as I see it, they now have a further 12 months to take advantage of the investment. Given how well PB's Marketing is executed and the impact it has had on the brand so far, (streaks ahead of all major players on core brand health metrics according to YouGov that drive long term business sustainability), they will adapt and utilise the spend well.

    In economic uncertainty, customers will be looking for best-value options if they 'have' to sell and with Covid catalysing greater digital penetration of products and services with the less tech-confident, I'd say the outlook for PB is pretty bright - and good luck to them.

    I've been amazed at the navel gazing about PB as I joined this category - such an obsession with a competitor isn't healthy. It reminds me of how the banks/utilities/insurers responded to price comparison websites - and look where that got them. I'd rather focus on what I can control and ensure I do my best rather than pick over gossip.

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    Continuing to burn through cash, falling market share, looming recession where people will be adverse to paying up front for a service they have a 50% chance of receiving (an actual sale), but, yeah, things looking bright for them.

     
  • Kit Johnson

    I personally don't care much for the PB/Yopa etc model, they are not a threat to us locally or the High Street model generally.

    However, what does concern me and I am sure other traditional Agents is when they are involved in a chain.......that can become a nightmare scenario, to the point when you have competing buyers, one sold through a traditional Agent and the other a listing service, for efficiency, communication and detail it is fairly straight forward which buyer to recommend to our clients.

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    Flash in the pan now down to one UK operation with more money going out than coming in, i have to agree with the others not a threat

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    I am amazed at the amount of time people spend talking about PB. They are an insignificant payer inn the market., There is not one location in which they are the market leader. PB will never be a major player but they will always take a few instructions which hurt real agents. They will also drive fees down has they already have.

    I am, surprised that as yet no portal has been lanced for vendors upload their property for sale then do all viewings etc themselves.

    Whilst I am aware that this has pitfalls for vendors in terms of sales progression etc I am sure there is a market fpr such a platform that would take far more instructions than PB.

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