UK disruptor Purplebricks to also exit the US after Australian low commission venture failure

UK disruptor Purplebricks to also exit the US after Australian low commission venture failure
UK disruptor Purplebricks to also exit the US after Australian low commission venture failure

Losses at online estate agent Purplebricks have almost doubled with the UK based firm confirming plans to exit the US market after its previously announced exit from Australia.

It revealed in total, its operating losses in the key US and Australian markets were £52.9 million (A$93m).

"We have taken the difficult decisions to exit our businesses in both Australia and the US as it is very important that we now focus our resources on the UK and Canada, where we have a strong established presence and where there are significant opportunities to grow market share and deliver profitable growth for shareholders," Purplebricks boss Vic Darvey said.

"Both exits will be conducted in an orderly manner with the expectation they will be completed by the end of 2019."

It made a FY19 operating loss of £18.8 million (A$34m) in Australia.

Purplebricks shareholders were updated today on the cost of its venture into Australia that facing "increasingly difficult market conditions as the year progressed, we changed the management team and business model."

"The board concluded that the prospective returns from Australia were no longer sufficient to justify continued investment and took the decision to exit the market in May 2019."

It has fewer than 800 listings remaining in Australia, down on the 4500 instructions received in FY2018.

A focused, results-orientated team are on the ground implementing its exit strategy, which is based around an orderly process where we stand by our key obligations and help customers successfully sell their properties.

With the decision to close its Australian business, it expects total losses and closure costs of between £6 million to £8 million in FY 2020.

The company noted during the two and a half years that Purplebricks operated in Australia, "market conditions became increasingly challenging."

"Despite changes to the business model and the continued hard work and dedication of the team there, we failed to gain the scale needed to succeed.

"Given the market outlook, and size of the ultimate opportunity, the board took the decision in May 2019 to run down and close the business, which will be completed by 31 December 2019.

"A reduced team is in place to ensure a professional wind down of the business and to ensure we continue to deliver great outcomes for our remaining customers.

"Having launched in the US in September 2017, we expanded rapidly into a total of seven states within a year.

"Each state required a significant investment in marketing to underpin the brand.

"Having not seen the revenue growth we had expected, in early May 2019 we put the US business under strategic review, to examine the feasibility of delivering growth in a more effective and cost-efficient manner.

"Having reviewed a number of alternative business models, the outcome of the strategic review was that while there remains a significant opportunity to disrupt the US market, it would take substantially more management time and resources than the Company is able to commit at this time.

"Therefore, a decision was taken to withdraw from the US and either sell or close the business."

Investment in building its brand in the US and establishing the Australian business led to a group operating loss of £52.3 million (FY 2018 loss: £27.8 million).

The business is supported by a robust balance sheet with a strong cash position, it advised.

Its mission was to be "THE WORLD'S MOST INNOVATIVE, CARING AND MODERN REAL ESTATE AGENCY THAT HAS OUR PEOPLE AND OUR CUSTOMERS AT THE VERY HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO. TOGETHER WE WILL NEVER STOP LEARNING, CHANGING AND WINNING."

It hopes to get to 10 percent of market share in the UK and 12 percent in Canada.

The Australian and US startups had been "incredibly distracting," Darvey told a results presentation.

"I don't think we will ever move to no-sale, no-fee. The upfront fee brings to us a motivated seller," he said, while acknowledging the agency would continue to evolve its pricing model.

 

The presentation noted UK commission rates were coming down, although this was only in certain pockets, and no figure was offered.

Rentals provide just 10 percent of the business.

Founded in 2012 by Michael Bruce and Kenny Bruce, it débuted on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in December 2015.

In August 2016 it launched in Australia and in September 2017 Purplebricks was launched in the US.

In 2018, the company purchased DuProprio, a Canadian real estate company that offered commission-free real estate services.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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Purplebricks Low Commissions

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