According to reports from Singapore, Carousell is looking to acquire number 2 portal operator 99 Group ahead of a potential public listing in the US next year.
Local business publication The Business Times is quoting multiple people aware of the development as saying that Singaporean horizontal marketplace operator Carousell is in talks with portal operator 99 Group over a potential takeover. The sources quoted stressed that nothing has been agreed yet and that talks may not result in any deal.
While Carousell operates a leading B2C and C2C marketplace for goods and services including cars and jobs, 99 Group operates the second-largest real estate portal in the country by traffic as well as the leading portal in Indonesia.
99 Group is a direct rival of PropertyGuru and recently lost out on the backing of Australian portal operator REA Group when REA merged its Southeast Asian assets with those of PropertyGuru back in May 2021. As part of that deal, REA Group agreed to divest from its interest in 99 Group which it had been an investor in since 2019.
Whether 99 Group would want to enter into a deal that would see another public company as its overseer or benefactor is up for debate given that CEO Darius Cheung is on record as saying that REA's departure as an investor “allows us to free from the shackles of having our most significant shareholder being a public company”.
With its main rival, PropertyGuru about to go public and receive unprecedented ammunition to go after M&As and synch much of the market in Southeast Asia, 99 Group may well welcome interest from regional investors and maybe even some from further afield.