|08 April, 2019

Dubai's Property Finder buys owner of rival Justproperty.com

Property Finder founder Michael Lahyani says JRD Group's software platforms were the "key driver" of the deal

Michael Lahyani, founder and CEO of Dubai-based portal Property Finder

Michael Lahyani, founder and CEO of Dubai-based portal Property Finder

Handout via Property Finder

Property Finder, the Dubai-based property portal which completed a $120 million funding round in November last year, has bought JRD Group--the company behind rival portal Justproperty.com.

The amount paid has not been disclosed, but involves a mix of cash and shares, with JRD Group’s co-founders Alex Nicholas and Siddharth Singh remaining with the enlarged business. The deal has also provided an exit for iMENA Group--a UAE-based venture capital firm that bought a significant minority stake in JRD in August 2015.

Property Finder's founder Michael Lahyani told Zawya that the Justproperty.com brand will be retained.

“Justproperty has been around for a very long time and the brand has good, organic traffic," he said in an interview on Monday. He argued that adding Justproperty's users to its portfolio would provide “a good bump” in terms of organic visitor numbers in the United Arab Emirates.

Property Finder’s UAE channel attracted around 2.14 million visits in March 2019, while the group's websites as a whole attracted more than 6.8 million visitors, according to the company. JRD Group attracted 683,417 visitors last month, the company said.

However, Lahyani admitted that a “key driver” behind the deal was the proprietary software that JRD Group had developed for property brokers, developers and managers under the Propspace brand.

“Propspace is a very good CRM (customer-relationship management) that we have been competing with for many years,” he said.

JRD Group had developed Propspace initially as a management tool for brokers to provide better data to online sales and lettings websites. It subsequently launched separate editions for building and facilities managers and, more recently, a product to help developers manage off-plan sales.

“Their plan was to take their learnings from this market and try to expand it elsewhere,” Lahyani said. “I think they're realising that opening in markets like the US and the UK is something that would require more funding, which was not something that they had available. So we're focusing now on this region.”

In a telephone interview, JRD Group co-founder Alex Nicholas told Zawya that the decision to sell its business was "difficult" but allowed it to broaden its customer base.

‘Product people’

“We're product people and I think this acquisition allows us to do what we wanted to always do with the products, which was to reach a much wider audience across the whole region.”

Specifically, he said, it would allow the firm to grow the property management software developed around a year ago to reach a wider audience. The software handles payment processing, rental renewals and maintenance requests both by tenants and landlords both for residential and commercial buildings.

“To really get that out there quickly to as many people as possible, this was almost like the perfect opportunity and to continue building it and turning it into the product we really want it to become,” Nicholas said.

“There are a few software (products) in the States that do this but nothing regionally, in our opinion, that does this at quite the same level.”

It also provides a wider customer base for the recently-launched product aimed at developers which handles off-plan sales reservations, schedules payments based on completion milestones and handles other aspects of payment plans.

Property Finder raised $120 million in a funding round led by New York-based venture capital firm, General Atlantic, in November, in a deal which Lahyani told Reuters valued the firm at close to $500 million.

The company currently employs more than 450 staff - 204 of whom work in the UAE, according to a company statement. JRD Group currently employs 32 people at its base in Dubai.

Nicholas said that the two firms had been competitors for around eight years, “but really respectful, friendly ones”.

“We’ve always had the channels open, the communication lines”, he said, adding that the pair had been involved in detailed discussions for the past few months.

Earlier this month, Property Finder announced that it had virtually doubled size of its stake in Turkish portal Zingat to around 37 percent.

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Brinda Darasha)


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