source: The Australian
ONLINE property classified leader Realestate.com.au (REA) has commenced a major assault on the Asian online real estate market, using two newly launched websites in Hong Kong and Dubai as a linchpin to expand in the region.
Chief executive Simon Baker told the company’s annual general meeting that its objective was “to become No1 or No2” in every market in which it operated.
The company was now the No1 online real estate player in Australia, Italy and Luxembourg, he said, with strong positions in a number of other markets, including the UK, through propertyfinder.com. However, the prospect of growth in the Asian market is attracting most of Mr Baker’s attention.
In September, REA – majority-owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian – bought Hong Kong’s leading English language property publication, Square Foot magazine, and last month launched a sister online property brand, Squarefoot.com.hk.
Similarly, REA has in the last few weeks relaunched a Dubai real estate website, related to a real estate magazine publisher it bought last month, as Propertyfinder.ae.
Both sites are similar in look and feel to the Realestate.com.au website in Australia.
Mr Baker said the Hong Kong acquisition, in particular, was a litmus test for further moves into Asia. “(It’s) a learning platform,” he said. “We’re now very close to what’s happening in Singapore, mainland China and Japan. It’s easy to use that as a staging post to learn more about Asia. And if opportunities do arise, we can execute.”
Asked how quickly he hoped to achieve HK’s number one or two position for online property, Mr Baker replied: “That takes time.” The company had “work to do” to improve the Chinese language component of Squarefoot.com.hk.
Mr Baker was bullish about the prospects for Dubai, given an undeveloped online property market.
“There really are no (property) websites there. It’s all very new.”
Mr Baker sees the lack of online property competitors as an opportunity for REA to build a position of long-term dominance in the market.
“Here is a market that is massively vibrant. There’s a lot of construction, a lot of development happening there. And the people who are buying these are from overseas, not from Dubai.”
Mr Baker sees the rapid growth of Dubai as providing international exposure.
“What we’re finding is that when we talk to the agents on the ground – the Colliers, the Knight Franks – they love the concept of working advertising with us,” he said. “They get their listings to a broad market, not only in Dubai, but also in the UK, which is very attractive for them, in Australia and so on.”