Shares in the Neil Woodford-backed estate agency Purplebricks Group (LSE: PURP) started trading for the first time in London yesterday and it looks as if the market is unconvinced by the companysdigital hybrid model.
Purplebricks is only 18 months old but the company has already attracted plenty of attention. Ithas the potential to shake up the traditional estate agency market, which is beset with high fees, at a time when the UK property market is booming.
Purplebricks offers a fixed fee sale process for home sellers, compared to the traditionalpercentage-based fees charged by traditional agents. Purplebricks charges only665 plus VAT, or 995 plus VAT in expensive London postcodes. The fee is payable upfront whether or not a home is sold. Traditionalagents, on the other hand, can charge as much as3,600 plus VAT on a 200,000 house.
Moreover, Purplebricks operates ahybrid network of 165 local licensed agents who provide face-to-face services. The company doesnt run its own branches. This approach helps the group keep costs low and ensures that Purplebricksis still able to offer the same nature of services as its traditional brick-and-mortar peers.
What about the numbers?
At first glance, Purplebricks looks like it has the potential to shake up the real estate market but the figures dont seem to add up. Indeed, Purplebricksfloated at a hefty valuation of 240m, which would imply that the group is rackingup at least 11m per annum in sales. This estimate is based on the fact that peer Rightmove is trading at a price-to-sales ratio of 21.3.
However,the average Purplebricks fee is 1,080 (plus VAT) and according to the companys website it has approximately 4,300 residential properties for sale, which should net the business fees of just over 4.6m.
That being said,figures put together for a private fundraising by the company a year-and-a-half ago predicteda net profit of 17.6 in the year to 31 July 2015, and 24.9m profit the year after. The online estate agent was also promising30,596 instructions during 2015 and 39,660 instructions for 2016.
So, without any concrete figures, its difficult to place a value on Purplebricks shares.
Wait for the figures
Purplebricks might be a revolutionary new idea and low-cost way of selling property, but as yet its not clear if the companys business model is sustainable. Now, Im not in a position to criticise Neil Woodford. His impressive performance record is a testament to the fact that he knows how to pick successfulinvestments, but unlike ordinary investors, Woodford may have access to information thats not yet available to the wider market. With this being the case, investors need to ask if they know enough about Purplebricks themselves before making an investment decision.
Unfortunately, as of yet there are no City forecasts for Purplebricks, and the company is yet to publish a set of results as a public company. The company will report its first official set of figures as a public company on27 January. So if youre looking to invest it might be wise to wait for these numbers before taking a position.
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