Daily Mail buys primelocation property website for £48m

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The Independent Online

The Daily Mail media group (DMGT) continued its policy of buying up jobs and property-related websites by making a recommended £48m cash offer for Fastcrop, a property website operator.

DMGT said Fastcrop had recommended that its shareholders, who include estate agencies such as Savills, Knight Frank and Strutt & Parker, accept the offer.

Fastcrop's main business is the primelocation.com residential property website.

It was formed by several estate chains five years ago in response to the growing use of websites by property buyers and sellers. The company is headed by Ian Springett, a former executive at Lombard Direct, whose shareholding is valued at around £4m by the deal. The management team in total has a 14 per cent stake.

DMGT approached Fastcrop with an expression of interest three months ago.

When it emerged that the group had appointed Close Brothers to review its options a few days ago, other media groups showed interest in bidding but the DMGT came up with the preferred deal.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon said in a research note: "We favour DMGT's progressive online strategy and the company remains very comfortably financed, e.g. eight times profit and loss interest cover, for further deals, in other online areas."

Estate agent shareholders accepting the offer have agreed to remain using the site for three years.

Andrew Hart, the managing director of Associated New Ventures, the DMGT subsidiary responsible for its online business, said: "The acquisition continues our strategy of making investments to increase our exposure to key areas of the online advertising market. Primelocation is a prize assets for us, complementing our other established businesses."

DMGT has already received irrevocable acceptances from more than 75 per cent of each class of Fastcrop's shareholders. This latest online acquisition comes a week after DMGT shocked the media industry by saying that it would consider selling its regional newspaper arm, whose titles include the Leicester Mercury.

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