[Update] As part of the transaction, REA Group Limited invest US$50 million in the joint entity with an affiliate of SoftBank Group Corp, investing US$5 million.
Representatives of REA and SoftBank will join the board of the joint entity, which will continue to be chaired by a News Corp representative.
Dhruv Agarwala, co-founder and CEO of PropTiger, will serve as CEO of the joint entity. Jason Kothari, CEO of Housing.com, who has skillfully steered the company and strengthened the brand among Indian internet users, has decided to move on to pursue other opportunities in the Indian Internet space.
Softbank-backed realty firm Housing.com is set to be merged with PropTiger any time now, sources aware of the deal have confirmed. When contacted regarding the development, Housing refused to comment.
The acquisition has been the subject of speculation in the media since realty portal Housing struck a partnership with News Corp-backed rival PropTiger in September last year. A source who has a stake in Housing and did not wish to be identified confirmed that discussions regarding a deal commenced at that time.
A big fall
According to the sources, it will be an all-stock deal at a value far below the current valuation of Housing. During late 2014, the company’s valuation peaked at around $220-250 million, when it raised $90 million in a round led by SoftBank. However, the company’s valuation has fallen drastically since then.
Industry experts say that Housing had been suffering from high cash burn and low returns. The company suffered a loss of Rs 279 crore as per the company’s filings for the financial year 2014-15, a sixfold jump from Rs 48 crore in the previous year. The company had reported a total revenue of Rs 12.7 crore.
“For Housing, it’s a disaster. They have been in the market for quite some time, and a stocks-swap deal was surely not a right exit. It looks like the Housing investors couldn’t take the pressure and had given up by now,” says Arjun Basu, CEO and Founder of DooKeys, a real estate platform.
He adds that PropTiger has been trying to build a B2C business model with Makaan, and that this acquisition has been a way forward in that direction. “In stocks-swap deals, the acquirer has nothing to lose, rather giving the acquired company its brand value,” he says.
Early developments in Housing
Housing.com, which was launched in 2012, ran into trouble in mid-2015 when founder Rahul Yadav donated his shares to the company’s employees, quit, returned, and was finally fired by the board of directors.
During the same year, the company laid off 800 employees in a return-to-our-roots effort to focus on property sales.
In January 2016, SoftBank had come to Housing’s rescue by putting in around $14 million in the Mumbai-based real estate portal. The funding came at a time when the grapevine was abuzz with rumours of Snapdeal acquiring Housing.
During November 2016, it raised an additional of $5 million from SoftBank. Late last year, it announced that it would bring rental properties back onto the site.
Market growth and consolidation
According to IBEF, the Indian real estate market is expected to touch $180 billion by 2020. The housing sector alone contributes five to six percent to the country's GDP.
There is a horde of players who offer solutions to the realty market — both offline and online.
In the online category, Magicbricks, 99acres, PropTiger, Square Yards, DoorKeys and many other players are offering the selling, buying and renting of facilities.
This is the fifth acquisition by PropTiger, after Out of Box Interaction, Makaan, 3DPhy and PropRates. In April 2015, it announced the acquisition of Makaan.com for an undisclosed amount.
During early 2016, online classified major Quikr acquired realty portal CommonFloor for an undisclosed amount. During November last year, the real estate arm of e-commerce marketplace Quikr, QuikrHomes, acquired Bengaluru-based home rental marketplace Grabhouse.
Experts say that the consolidation hasn’t impacted the market much, rather helping it maintain its sanity.
“Talking particularly about listing platforms, MagicBricks and 99acres still hold the top two positions. In classifieds, monetisation is difficult, and we have already seen the poor conditions of many startups in this category. For any category to grow, discounting models are not the way forward. In my perspective, consolidation is good for the market - sustainable businesses will remain,” concludes Arjun.