September 30, 2014 / 10:59 AM / 3 years ago

News Corp to buy real estate website operator Move for $950 mln

(Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp NWSA.O will buy Move Inc MOVE.O, the owner of property websites such as realtor.com, for about $950 million to expand its digital marketing business as advertising revenue from its print business dwindles.

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch attends the Wall Street Journal CEO council annual meeting in Washington, November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The deal is the second large acquisition in the online real estate market this year as property website operators struggle to turn rising revenue into consistent profitability.

Top U.S. real estate website operator Zillow Inc Z.O bought smaller rival Trulia Inc TRLA.N for $3.5 billion in July.

CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi said the online real estate market remained largely fragmented and there was room for more consolidation.

Realtor.com, like Trulia’s trulia.com and Zillow’s zillow.com, lists properties for sale or rent on behalf of homeowners and agents and gets revenue through subscriptions and advertising.

Trulia and Zillow lost a combined $30 million in 2013 while Move had a profit of $574,000.

News Corp, which owns the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and newspapers in the UK and Australia, said it would pay $21 per share for Move, a premium of 37 percent to the stock’s Monday close.

Move shares rose to $20.93 in early trading on the Nasdaq, while News Corp shares were down about 1 percent at $16.67.

Australian real estate website REA Group Ltd REA.AX, which is 61.6 percent owned by News Corp, will take a 20 percent stake in Move for about $200 million, News Corp said.

“In addition to boosting Move’s subscription, advertising and software services, this acquisition will give News Corp a significant marketing platform for our media assets,” News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said in a statement.

Real estate agents and brokers are expected to spend $14 billion on online advertising in 2014, of which Move is expected to corner about 2 percent, he said on a conference call.

Move’s market share is likely to grow as more advertising spending moves online in the United States, Thomson said.

Move also operates moving.com and seniorhousingnet.com. The company, whose sites are accessible through move.com, reaches about 35 million people monthly, making it the third largest U.S. property website operator.

Benchmark Co analyst Daniel Kurnos wrote in a note on Sept. 11 that he expected Move’s revenue to grow faster in 2015 as the U.S. housing market picks up.

News Corp said it would commence a tender offer for Move shares within 10 business days and that it expected the deal to close by the end of the year.

Goldman Sachs was News Corp’s financial adviser and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP its legal adviser. Morgan Stanley was Move’s financial adviser and Cooley LLP its legal adviser.

Up to Monday’s close, Move shares had risen 4.5 percent since July 24, when reports emerged that Zillow was in talks to buy Trulia.

Editing by Ted Kerr and Kirti Pandey

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