Zoopla chief executive Alex Chesterman in line for £19m bonus

 

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The Independent Online

The founder of the Zoopla property website could land shares worth more than £19m under a new bonus scheme designed to keep him committed to the business. Alex Chesterman, who launched Zoopla seven years ago, is also selling a quarter of his 4 per cent stake, cashing in shares worth £11m.

The new share scheme, which is supported by investors, will see him gain up to 7.5 million shares if he can boost total shareholder returns. If the benchmark slips below 8 per cent over the four-year period, the options lapse. Zoopla’s chairman, Mike Evans, believes Mr Chesterman “will be instrumental in delivering enhanced shareholder value over the long term”.

He added: “Alex has authorisation to sell down circa 25 per cent of his holding, but will retain at least 75 per cent (£7.8m) so has plenty of skin in the game and remains aligned to shareholders’ interests in our view.”

The new pay deal emerged as Zoopla – Britain’s second-largest home selling website after the market leader Rightmove – gave a trading update for April to the end of July.

The FTSE 250 company saw 213 new estate agency branches sign up to Zoopla, which will soften the impact from the arrival of rival OnTheMarket, which launched in January.

OnTheMarket was set up to challenge the dominance of Zoopla and Rightmove, promising lower fees but letting members remain on only one of the “big two” sites.

Mr Chesterman said: “We are very pleased that over the past few months of trading we have returned to growth in our number of UK agency members.” The company added that so far in August, there has been an increase in the number of returning member enquiries.

 Total advertisers now stands at 16,131 and the number of properties listed on the website climbed 7 per cent to 882,000. Traffic was 45.6 million average monthly visits, of which more than half came from mobile devices.

Zoopla’s recently launched “find a pro” tool, which helps users find tradesmen for real estate projects, was a contributing factor to the 11 per cent rise in mobile device use.

The price comparison site uSwitch, a recent acquisition,  was performing well, the group said. Investors welcomed the update, with the company at the top end of the FTSE250 leader board. Zoopla shares were up 11.9p to close at 266.2p.

Anthony Codling, an equity analyst at Jefferies, said: “It is clear that Alex Chesterman has plenty of drive and ambition left with respect to Zoopla’s future growth.”

 A note from Numis said: “All in, no major surprises, an encouraging statement and outlook. Our underlying forecasts and consensus should not move significantly on this.”

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