ZPG has made a surprise investment in Dubai-based property portal owner Propertyfinder Group (PFG) for an undisclosed sum, giving it a door into the global property market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
PFG is a parent company of seven property websites across the region including the UAE, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
PFG was started up in 2005 by US businessman Michael Lahyani (pictured, left) and through both acquisition and growth was recently valued at $200 million following a $20m investment by a Bermuda-based but Russian company called Vostock.
The deal, which was announced last year, was described by Lahyani at the time as enabling the company to become the biggest online real estate “destination” in the MENA region.
But although Lahyani describes himself as the founder, PFG’s UAE website was originally 51%-owned by Australia’s REA Group before being sold off when the company pulled out of what had been early attempts at a global property portal empire. Lahyani started a magazine in Dubai called Al Bab World which was later bought by REA and then turned into the Propertyfinder.ae website.
At the time during the mid-to-late noughties the REA network included sites in Italy, France, Belgium, Hong Kong – and in the UK. Nick Leeming’s Propertyfinder.co.uk was once a serious rival to Rightmove.
Older agents will recognise PFG’s site logos and website design from when Propertyfinder was active in the UK, before ultimately being sold to ZPG in August 2009.
PFG says it is the market leader in five of the seven markets it is active within, and has 200 staff and total monthly visits of two million, a major improvement compared to eight years ago when it had just 44,000.
As part of the original deal ZPG kept the www.propertyfinder.com address but this, as part of the investment revealed today, has been transferred to PFG most likely so it can harmonise its URLs across all seven countries. These are currently a hotch-potch of different address combinations.
“Their business is growing fast and we have no doubt that we can add strategic value as a shareholder,” says Alex Chesterman, CEO of ZPG (pictured, right).
Michael Lahyani says, “I have known Alex for years and we have always enjoyed strategic conversations on the real estate classified space.
“Having ZPG as a shareholder is not only a vote of confidence in our business but also an opportunity to secure the propertyfinder.com domain name, a strategic asset for our group.”