Germany's Scout24 sells car listings unit to Hellman & Friedman

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Scout24, an operator of digital marketplaces for real estate and automobiles, is pictured in Munich, Germany July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN (Reuters) - German classifieds group Scout24 G24n.DE said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its AutoScout24 car listings business to private equity investor Hellman & Friedman (H&F) for 2.9 billion euros ($3.2 billion).

Based in Munich, AutoScout24 bills itself as the largest automotive digital marketplace in the European Union, operating in 18 countries, with over 10 million monthly users. It lags eBay's EBAY.O in its home market, however.

Scout24, which initiated the sale under pressure from U.S. activist investor Elliott [ECAL.UL], said it planned to return the proceeds from the sale to its shareholders and would now focus fully on its properties listings business ImmoScout24.

“Separating ImmoScout24 and AutoScout24 will help each business focus on their respective growth opportunities and accelerate shareholder value creation,” Scout24 Chief Executive Tobias Hartmann said in a statement.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020.

Elliott had argued that Scout24’s auto and property listings businesses have few synergies and said ImmoScout24 could command a standalone valuation of 5 billion euros.

A joint bid by private equity houses H&F and Blackstone BX.N to take over Scout24 in its entirety failed in May after a share-price rally squeezed the premium on offer.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by David Evans and Emelia Sithole-Matarise