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Connells and Countrywide to be test-bed for Zoopla innovations

Connells Group, now on the threshold of taking the ailing Countrywide empire under its wings, has signed a five year partnership with the Zoopla portal. 

A statement from Zoopla says Connells Group will be the first of many ‘Innovation Partners’ - winning early access to a suite of new services which the portal unveiled last week.

New products and software will be tested and trialed across Connells Group’s near-600 branches, including those under Countrywide brands once the acquisition is formalised. 

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Connells will also be invited to consult on Zoopla’s future product developments, and will work closely with brands across the Zoopla portfolio, including Hometrack, and investigating possible work with sister-company Uswitch, a price comparison service.

Talks between Zoopla and Connells have been going on since the autumn; since that time, in parralel negotiations, Connells has been the victor in the battle for the future of Countrywide, too. 

“We’re delighted to enter into this long term commitment with Zoopla as a key part of our portal strategy” says Connells Group estate agency chief executive David Plumtree. 

“We’re highly impressed with Zoopla’s investment in product development and welcome the opportunity of helping shape further innovations to aid us in our quest for further market share growth and to strengthen our offering for the benefit of our branch teams and customers.”

Andy Marshall, chief commercial officer at Zoopla, adds: “Zoopla is uniquely positioned to support Connells Group’s ambitious plans for future growth. 

“Our unrivalled combination of industry leading software, unparalleled data and insight from Hometrack, and the possibility of revenue diversification via our sister company, Uswitch, make Zoopla a well-rounded partner capable of supporting Connells on its next growth chapter.

“2021 will mark a new era for Zoopla as we raise the bar and set a new standard in industry innovation. Our significant investment in product and software coupled with our long-term strategic vision, which we are unveiling to our customer base now, has given Connells Group the confidence that Zoopla will be its perfect partner for the months and years to come.”

Countrywide shareholders will this month have the opportunity to vote on the Connells bid to purchase the troubled estate agency group.

The special AGM for Countrywide will be held, virtually, on February 15; Connells has already declared it has irrevocable backing from well over 50 per cent of shareholders.

It was just before Christmas that Connells - part of the Skipton Building Society - announced it had struck an agreed offer for Countrywide, of around £130m. This was a cash offer at 395p a share, well above its original 250p a share offer in November. 

Connells has subsequently stated that it is likely to keep the 40-plus Countrywide brands and its network of some 650 branches; Connells Group itself has just over 580 branches.

However, there may be substantial back-office savings through the elimination of duplication and possible movement of both companies’ head office activities into one building.

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