Interactive Investor

ii view: Rightmove profits improve but risk to customer number in 2024

A giant of the UK property market and with other areas such as mortgages and commercial property in its sights. We assess prospects.

1st March 2024 11:22

Keith Bowman from interactive investor

Full-year results to 31 December

  • Revenue up 10% to £364 million
  • Operating profit up 7% to £258 million
  • Final dividend of 5.7p
  • Total dividend for 2023 up 9% to 9.3p per share
  • Cash held of £39 million, down from £40 million

Chief executive Johan Svanstrom said:

“In a year of economic uncertainty, consumers continued to trust Rightmove as the place to turn to help them make their move. Customers were able to choose from an expanded, more sophisticated product suite, to continue to drive business results in a changing market environment. 

“We are looking forward to 2024 with confidence and to delivering further value to all stakeholders on our platform, progressing the ambitious Rightmove strategy.”

ii round-up:

Online property advertiser Rightmove (LSE:RMV) today flagged its expectation for customer numbers to fall "slightly" in 2024, as it reported increased demand for bigger and more expensive ad packages last year given the continued tough property backdrop. 

Customer numbers fell 1% in 2023 to 18,785, while average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) increased 9% to £1,431 per month, driving revenue up 10% to £364 million. 

Shares in the FTSE 100 company fell 3% in UK trading having come into this latest news little changed over the last year. That’s better than a 6% fall for estate agent Savills (LSE:SVS) and compares to a 3% retreat for the FTSE 100 index itself. 

Property professionals, such as estate agents, lettings agents and new home builders pay a subscription fee to advertise their properties on Rightmove.

Continued strong demand for its top ad packages such as ‘Optimiser Edge’ is expected to push growth in ARPA up by a further £100-£110 in 2024. 

Higher 2023 revenue fuelled a 7% increase in 2023 operating profit to £258 million, underpinning a 9% hike in the total 2023 dividend to 9.3p per share. 

Cash and cash equivalents held by Rightmove were £39 million as of 31 December, down from £40 million a year ago. Its AGM is scheduled for 10 May. 

ii view:

Rightmove describes itself as the UK's largest property website, advertising around 90% of all homes for sale via estate agents across the UK. Started in 2000, it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2006 and is today a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Time spent on its website increased from 11.7 billion minutes in 2016 to 16.3 billion minutes in 2022 and down to 15.4 billion in 2023.  

Estate agent related sales generated its biggest slug of revenues last year at 72%. New home developer demand made up a further 18% of revenue, with other businesses such as commercial property, data services, overseas listings, and third-party advertising accounting for the balance of 10%. 

For investors, the fall in housing transactions to 1 million in 2023 from 1.2 million in 2022 will have put its customers under pressure and interest rates remain heightened despite hopes for cuts in borrowing costs. Competition in its smaller areas of targeted growth like mortgages, remains fierce, while a forecast dividend yield of under 2% compares to more than 6% for property owner and real estate investment trust Land Securities Group (LSE:LAND)

On the upside, the challenging backdrop for the property market potentially strengthens the need for customers like home developers to advertise. A diversity of customer types exists, from buyers and renters under agency customers to new home sales from developers, while targeted areas of growth away from its core business include mortgages, rental services such as digitalising the process and commercial real estate. 

On balance, and while room for caution persists as evidenced by an initial drop in share price today, investors are likely to remain supportive of this property ads giant over the longer term as economic conditions improve.

Positives: 

  • Strong market position
  • Diversity of customers

Negatives:

  • Uncertain economic backdrop
  • Costs generally remain elevated 

The average rating of stock market analysts:

Hold

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