City analysts were told in a briefing after Wednesday’s half-year results for ZPG that the days of a threat from Agents’ Mutual were “long gone”.
William Packer, of Exane BNP Paribas, reported in an investors’ note afterwards: “Management argues days of Agents’ Mutual ‘materially’ affecting ZPG are ‘long gone’.
He said: “ZPG stated that circa 750 agent branches return from AM in total, further evidence of progress.
“We estimate returns continued (in the first half this year) at a rate of 40 branches per month, slowing from circa 70 (in the second half of last year).”
However Ian Springett, chief executive of Agents’ Mutual, which operates property portal OnTheMarket, poured the iciest of water on the claim that it is no longer a player in the market.
He said: “We noted with interest Alex Chesterman’s comment that the days of OnTheMarket.com ‘materially’ affecting Zoopla are ‘long gone’.
“Alex Chesterman has consistently predicted the demise of OnTheMarket.
“It is now more than two years ago that he claimed that the portal would be ‘a short-term event’ and analysts have been hearing variations on this story ever since.
“OnTheMarket.com continues to have a positive material impact on the property portals landscape.
“Many thousands of agents switched from Zoopla/Primelocation to join us.
“Many thousands of agents continue to support the objectives of the business by creating a genuine alternative portal for consumers and agents alike.
“Many thousands of agents have not returned to ZPG portals with their advertising budgets and their data.
“Meanwhile, OnTheMarket.com has made impressive headway in a very challenging market, achieving millions of monthly visits with a record-breaking month of 11.2m earlier this year – an 85% year-on-year increase.
“We are here to stay.
“We are concentrating on long-term growth strategy, and with regard to the legal proceedings between Gascoigne Halman and Agents’ Mutual, we shall continue to respect the Tribunal by not commenting on or around it as it completes its deliberations and prepares its judgment.”
The case, heard in February, was in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, studying claims and counter-claims over the One Other Portal rule imposed by OnTheMarket.
There is no ruling yet, and no timeline as to when this could be issued.