Residential and commercial buildings stand in Mumbai, India. (Photograph: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Marriage On The Cards For PropTiger And Housing.com?

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  • Online real estate search and advisory platforms PropTiger and Housing.com are said to be working on a merger, four people aware of the development, including a former Housing.com executive and an investor in Housing.com, told BloombergQuint.

    After considering various options with regard to the contours of the deal, the two companies are working on final documentation, said one of the persons quoted above requesting anonymity as the matter is private.

    The stock and cash transaction will value Housing.com at just under $50 million, he added. The startup which was once valued at $235 million has suffered a major fall in its valuation over the last two years.

    The company was last valued at less than $80 million, when it raised $15 million in January from SoftBank, added a former Housing executive over the phone. It has raised around $140 million so far.

    The deal is set to materialise in the next two months, he added.

    Under Pressure

    Housing.com, once touted as a disruptor in the residential market, was in the news in 2015 due to changes in its leadership team. The SoftBank-backed startup was founded by a dozen IIT Bombay students in June 2012. Differences arose between the then chief executive officer Rahul Yadav and the company’s investors, resulting in many of the founders quitting the company. Last year the company had also announced it had laid-off nearly 800 employees in a phased manner.

    Of the 12 founders, only two remain – Snehil Buxy, chief product officer and Neeraj Bhunwal, who heads developer operations. Among recent exits were Amrit Raj, the head of digital marketing and Jaspreet Singh, who led data operations.

    As per Housing.com’s filings for the financial year 2014-15, it reported a loss of Rs 279 crores, a six-fold jump from Rs 48 crore in the previous year. The company had reported a total revenue of Rs 12.7 crore, and witnessed high cash burn and low returns.

    PropTiger, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has had a turbulent ride as well. It owns real estate portal Makaan.com and a design company Out Of Box. Earlier this month the online media platform The Ken reported that PropTiger’s revenue declined nearly 77 percent, over the course of two years, to Rs 8.43 crore in financial year 2015-16, as against Rs 22.74 crore in financial year 2014-15 and Rs 36.68 crore in financial year 2013-14.

    The report also said that PropTiger has been carrying out its business in India through three affiliate companies- namely, Elara Technologies Pte, and Elara Marketing Services Private Ltd and Aardee Technosoft Private Ltd (100 percent subsidiaries of Elara Technologies Pte). Both Elara Marketing Services and Aardee Technosoft are a related party to PropTiger Realty Private Ltd, with related party transaction of Rs 11.6 crore and Rs 16 lakhs respectively. The report added while Elara marketing reported a revenue of Rs 34 crores, it losses stood at Rs 16.8 crores as of March 2016. Similarly, for Aardee Technosoft, it made Rs 16.9 crores in revenues, with a loss of Rs 58 crore. Proptiger India does not do consolidated account of these numbers.

    Joining Hands

    While Housing.com is grappling with high costs, PropTiger is trying to shore up its revenue. The former Housing.com executive said that deal makes sense for the investors in both companies. News Corp is looking to strengthen its real estate presence in India, according to this executive, and SoftBank wants to salvage its investment.

    Following the merger, Housing.com will provide demand through the online channel, while PropTiger’s brokerage business will convert that demand, explained the investor, requesting anonymity.

    SoftBank is likely to invest in the joint entity along with News Corp after the merger, he added.

    PropTiger counts SAIF Partners and Accel among its investors. In addition to SoftBank, Housing.com is backed by Nexus Venture Partners, DST Global LP, Falcon Edge Capital LP, Digital Nirvana Fund Co. Ltd, Qualcomm Ventures and Helion Venture Partners.

    Housing.com and PropTiger compete with platforms like MagicBricks and 99acres. The online real estate business saw some consolidation earlier this year when online classifieds listing firm Quikr bought CommonFloor to strengthen its real estate vertical.

    New Corp and Housing.com declined to comment. Separate email queries sent to PropTiger did not elicit any response.

    BloombergQuint