On­the­mar­ket’s £50m float plan causes tem­pers to flare

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - By Is­abelle Fraser

A ROW has erupted among mem­bers of prop­erty web­site On­the­mar­ket over a pro­posed stock mar­ket float which would trig­ger a £20m wind­fall for its chief ex­ec­u­tive.

On­the­mar­ket has an­nounced plans to raise £50m on Lon­don’s ju­nior Aim mar­ket, part of ef­forts to boost its pro­file and com­pete with ri­vals Right­move and Zoopla.

The com­pany, which was founded as a mu­tual by a group of agents and now has 2,700 mem­bers, must pass a vote in September of ex­ist­ing share­hold­ers over a 75pc thresh­old.

But op­po­si­tion to the float is grow­ing among some of its mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly those in smaller agen­cies with few branches. One agent signed up to the ser­vice de­scribed the float as “short­sighted”.

Boss Ian Springett has 3.9m shares which would be worth £20m if the firm achieved the val­u­a­tion it ex­pects of be­tween £200m and £250m. Graeme Lums­den, an es­tate agent signed up to On­the­mar­ket, has started a cam­paign to vote against the float, ar­gu­ing that the de­mu­tu­al­i­sa­tion would take power away from the orig­i­nal mem­bers of the mu­tual be­cause the board and new in­vestors would con­trol roughly 50pc of the com­pany.

He said: “My vote ‘no’ is re­ally a plea to vote [for] change with the sin­cere hope that the chief ex­ec­u­tive and board will be­gin a real di­a­logue with the cur­rent mem­ber­ship to find the best pro­posal that the mem­bers can re­sound­ingly sup­port.” Some agents also fear that the vote has been pushed through dur­ing the sum­mer.

An­other wrote to Mr Lums­den: “I think this is be­ing dealt with far too hastily with­out proper con­sul­ta­tion.”

Mr Springett said: “We be­lieve that floating OTM and seek­ing to raise £50m in cap­i­tal from new in­vestors could sub­stan­tially strengthen our mar­ket po­si­tion.”

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