Rightmove, the UK’s most popular property website, has posted a 40% rise in first half profits for the six months to June 30, beating market expectations.
The company points to its new approach which encourages advertisers to spend a little more and explain to homebuyers “who they are, what they do and what they offer”. Spending in this area almost doubled when compared to 2009 and rightmove saw a 20% increase in spending per customer, up to £365 per month. This contributed to an underlying operating profit of £27.9 million and has seen a move away from the local press by advertisers.
The web-based company pledged in 2009 to return all 2010 profits to shareholders after choosing last year to pay off net debts. The interim dividend this year is 5p, to be paid in the final quarter. A share buy back scheme begun in 2009 will be continued into the end of this year.
Rightmove has boosted its capital with the sale to TripAdvisor of its holiday lettings business in June. This brought £19.1 million onto the books and was a six-fold increase on the initial investment in March 2007. In March this year rightmove.com saw its busiest month on record, as customers used the site to navigate their way through a difficult market.
Managing Director Ed Williams said the company was not seeing a big impact from a slowdown in the market, with August set to be its second busiest month. "We are not seeing any change in the number of our customers going out of business," he told reporters. “Anecdotally people are saying it’s slow … This is always a really hard time of year to call the market. We are cautious but we are not yet sharing the gloom that seems to be more widespread in the City and marketplace." As long as transaction rates remain good, Mr Williams remains optimistic about rightmove.com’s profitability. Pre-tax profits in the first half were £24.5m, up from £17.6m a year earlier, on revenues that rose 25 per cent to £39.2m. Diluted earnings per share were 31£¼p. The strong interim results helped lift rightmove’s shares 10p to 632p .