Dotcom fever takes Rightmove out of newspaper groups' reach

LONDON – Newspaper publishers look set to miss out on an online growth opportunity as property website Rightmove considers spurning their offers in favour of floating on the stock market in the spring.

Rightmove, which claims to have 78% of the UK online property advertising market, is a juicy target for groups such as Daily Mail & General Trust, Trinity Mirror and News Corporation, which have all made acquisitions in this sector.

The return of dotcom optimism five years after Rightmove was created, has analysts at ABN Amro valuing the business at £400m. This is around 50 times expected 2006 earnings, and double the valuation put on Rightmove only a month ago, according to the Financial Times.

In contrast, DMGT managed to pay just £13.8m for a rival site, Findaproperty.com, in November 2004, which at the time was the third-most visited site in the UK.

Subsequently, Trinity Mirror bought Smartnewhomes.com in July last year for £11.3m, and News Corp bought Propertyfinder.com in November for £14.3m.

DMGT then laid out £48m for another site, Primelocation.com, in December.

Rightmove is 30% owned by estate agency Countrywide and another estate agent, Connells, also owns a share. In addition, financial groups HBOS and Royal & Sun Alliance are shareholders.

According to the FT, shares in Rightmove will be offered to estate agents and developers, making it one of the few quoted media companies to be part-owned by its advertisers.

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