Zoopla has just released a market update in which it highlights the growth in the number of agents using its service (up 213 agencies since April), the growth in the number of listings (up 7%), and confirms that management remains confident of delivering full year results in line with expectations.
Alex Chesterman, Founder & CEO of Zoopla Property Group Plc said, "We are very pleased that over the past few months of trading we have returned to growth in our number of UK Agency members. Our huge audience of property-interested consumers remains loyal and engaged and our members are enjoying strong performance and a competitive advantage in terms of both brand exposure and leads generated via our platform. With the acquisition of uSwitch now complete and the business performing well, we are focused on developing our combined services to provide consumers with a single resource for all their property needs which will serve to further enhance our user engagement and create a greater competitive advantage for our advertisers.
"We have come a long way since our launch just 7 years ago, but there still remains so much more to do that I am incredibly excited about. I am delighted to be able to fully commit to ZPG for the long-term and deliver the growth strategy of the Group."
UK Agency membership returned to growth, with the Group adding 213 net new branches since we last provided an update on our member number for April, taking total UK Agency members to 12,556 as at the end of the Period. Management is encouraged by the reduction in churn and return to growth of the UK Agency business, combined with the strong performance of its members who continue to grow their listings. The Group had 2,672 new home development members, 684 overseas members and 219 commercial members taking the total number of members at the end of the Period to 16,131.
Listings inventory continued to grow over the Period, up 7% from 828,000 to 882,000 as at 31 July 2015. Traffic to the platform remained strong with 45.6m average monthly visits during the Period and with Zoopla remaining one of the UK's most visited websites. Mobile devices accounted for over 60% of visits during the Period, up 11% over last year, as we continue to expand and optimise our mobile content.
The Group has continued to innovate and develop further tools and services to help consumers in the property market and drive greater value to our members. Improvements to our unique appraisal leads tool resulted in the Group sending record numbers of appraisal leads to members, up 103% over the same period last year and helping our members win more business. Additionally, the recent launch of our 'Find a Pro' tool will help consumers find relevant professionals and local tradesmen for their property projects and further increase user engagement with our platform.
The Group completed the acquisition of uSwitch on 1 June 2015 and the business is trading well. As the #1 price comparison website ("PCW") in the UK for home services switching (energy and communications), uSwitch continues its mission to help consumers find the best deals and save money on their household bills. During the Period, uSwitch exclusively launched a collective switch, with the cheapest dual fuel deal available on the market in over four years, empowering consumers to save an average of £419 off their annual energy bills.
Energy continues to benefit from uSwitch's market-leading position, structural growth in the switching market and the supportive regulatory environment. In July the CMA presented the provisional findings of its investigation into the UK energy market concluding that significant gains from switching continue to go unexploited by consumers and that PCWs can significantly reduce search and switching costs. The Government has also pledged to speed up the time it takes for consumers to switch by introducing 24-hour energy switching in the next three years. Communications has performed particularly well driven by highly competitive consumer deals in broadband and mobile. The business continues to build-out and develop further products in its nascent financial services vertical.
Founder & CEO
The Board is pleased to announce that it has secured the long term commitment of Alex Chesterman, Founder & CEO, to continue to lead the business over the next few years, working to achieve the significant long-term growth potential of the Group. The Board is proposing some changes to Alex's remuneration, principally the introduction of a Value Creation Plan ("VCP") in order to appropriately incentivise and reward his continued substantial contribution to the performance of the Group and to deliver the Group's ongoing growth strategy. The key terms of the proposed VCP can be found in the Appendix below.
The Board has commenced a consultation process with regard to the proposed changes with key shareholders and has already received indications of support from a majority of the Group's shareholders. A notice will be sent to all shareholders convening a General Meeting of the Company to approve the proposed VCP in the comings weeks. Alex has further been granted authority by the Chairman to sell up to a maximum of 4.25 million shares, representing c.1% of the Group's issued share capital, over the coming months to settle personal tax and other liabilities. The balance of Alex's holding will be subject to a further lock-up which will be released after the close of trading on the second anniversary of the Group's admission to trading on the London Stock Exchange (23 June 2016).
Mike Evans, Chairman of Zoopla Property Group Plc commented "We are delighted that Alex has committed to the business for the foreseeable future. His entrepreneurial and creative approach has been the driving force behind the growth of the business over the last few years and we believe will be instrumental in delivering enhanced shareholder value over the long-term."
The Group's key performance indicators ('KPIs') have been updated to incorporate the successful acquisition of uSwitch. Full details of the historic pro forma financials and KPIs for the Group can be found in the Appendix. The figures in the Appendix are for the 18 month period from 1 October 2013 to 31 March 2015. They do not cover the current Period.
Current trading and outlook
Since the end of the Period, the Group continues to see UK Agency churn returning towards more normal historic levels and an increase in the number of new and returning member enquiries. Management remains confident of delivering full-year results in line with the Board's expectations. Our next trading statement will be a post-close update on 22 October 2015 ahead of our full year 2015 results on 2 December 2015.