May 11, 2018 / 6:30 AM / 13 days ago

Britain's Zoopla, PrimeLocation bought by Silver Lake for $3 billion

(Reuters) - Silver Lake is buying Zoopla and PrimeLocation owner ZPG (ZPG.L) for 2.2 billion pounds ($3 billion), landing the Daily Mail publishing group a 642 million pound windfall for cashing out of online property portals.

FILE PHOTO: Zoopla branding is seen at West Bromwich Albion's Hawthorns stadium, in West Bromwich, Britain, January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

Along with rival and market leader Rightmove (RMV.L), ZPG dominates online searches by people looking to buy or rent homes in Britain. Zoopla’s sites carry property listings for nearly 15,000 estate agent branches.

Residential property transactions across the UK rose by 4.5 percent year-on-year to 1,206,180 in the year to March 2018, seasonally adjusted provisional data here from HM Revenue and Customs for those with completion values of 40,000 pounds or more show.

Analysts and bankers said on Friday the ZPG sale was likely to be used as a price benchmark for other mergers and acquisitions involving such portals and comparison websites.

Launched in 2007 by Alex Chesterman, who was also behind the LoveFilm video-on-demand service acquired by Amazon.com, ZPG was floated in 2014 and its shares have since risen by 69 percent.

Under the terms of the agreed deal, each ZPG shareholder will get 490 pence in cash, a premium of 31 percent over Thursday’s close, U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake said.

Newspaper owner Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGOa.L), which merged its property portals Findaproperty and PrimeLocation with ZPG in 2012, will receive 642 million pounds for its near 30 percent stake.

If the ZPG deal completes, DMGT’s returns from online property will total 890 million pounds, more than 14 times the cost of its original investments, it said, after its shares rose more than 9 percent to a 16-month high.

Meanwhile, ZPG’s second biggest shareholder, hedge fund Lansdowne, declined to comment on whether it supported the bid.

Silver Lake, with around $39 billion in assets under management, said ZPG, whose websites and apps attract more than 50 million visits a month, was a great growth technology story.

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Shares in ZPG, which also owns utility price comparison website uSwitch, were up about 30 percent to 488 pence at 1420 GMT after ZPG directors said in a joint statement they considered the terms of the deal “fair and reasonable”.

    The directors of ZPG, who own 1.16 pct of the firm, also backed the takeover, which Ian Whittaker at Liberum, who has a “buy” rating on ZPG, said showed that buyers were prepared to pay “punchy multiples” for high quality assets.

    “The question now is whether there is a counter-bid. If there is one, we think the most likely candidate is Axel Springer (SPRGn.DE), which has a collection of online property classified assets throughout assets but nothing in the UK.”

    The deal shows UK consumer-focused online companies are increasingly seen as attractive takeover assets, analysts said.

    ZPG itself made a 460-million pound takeover offer for Gocompare.Com Group Plc (GOCO.L), which the price comparison website operator rejected in January.

    And earlier this year, German publisher Axel Springer made a nearly 125 million pounds investment in British online real estate agent Purplebricks (PURP.L).

    “We would not be surprised for more M&A for leading UK digital stocks given that some shares prices have been depressed due to Brexit woes,” Peel Hunt analyst Jessica Pok said.

    ZPG was advised by Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies, while Lazard advised DMGT on the deal, which needs the backing of the holders of more than 75 percent of the group’s shares.

    “It’s a key pricing benchmark that will be used for other likely M&A in the sector, both for digital classifiers and price comparison websites,” Philippe Noel, a director in Lazard’s TMT team, told Reuters of the deal.

    ($1 = 0.7399 pounds)

    Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru & Paul Sandle in LONDON; additional reporting by Ben Martin, Maiya Keidan and Coran Elliott; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith

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