The Real Deal New York

News Corp. has “undiminished” optimism about the housing market amid Move’s revenue growth

Move’s revenue climbed 11% in Q2
By Meenal Vamburkar | February 08, 2019 01:00PM

News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson (Credit: Getty Images)

Despite the housing market slowdown, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. earnings got a boost from the growth of its real estate services in the second quarter.

Revenues for the digital real estate services segment reached $311 million, a 7 percent increase from the same time last year. That growth was driven in part by Move Inc., which operates Realtor.com, the company said. In the second quarter, Move’s revenues climbed 11 percent to $122 million from $110 million a year earlier.

News Corp. attributed the shift to to higher lead volume through Realtor.com’s ConnectionsSM program as well as the acquisition of Opcity. Average monthly unique users of Realtor.com’s web and mobile websites grew 6 percent year over year to 53 million. More than half were through mobile.

“Our long-term optimism is undiminished, even as shorter-term trading in the property market has been somewhat sluggish,” CEO Robert Thomson said on the earnings call. “You could indeed say that these are testing times,” but the company’s approach “is definitely passing that test.”

Last year, News Corp. bought lead generation startup Opcity for $210 million. Opcity uses an algorithm to pair agents and mortgage brokers with pre-screened buyers. Founded in 2015, it raised $27 million in venture funding from Icon Ventures, Georgian Partners and LiveOak Venture Partners, according to CrunchBase.

In addition to touting the benefits of the Opcity deal, Thomson also took a jab at iBuying programs — without naming any specific competitors.

“Unlike a certain other company in the sector, we are not in the business of flagrantly flipping houses or covertly competing with our clients,” he said. “Our aim is to provide the best possible service to buyers, sellers and realtors.”

Zillow Group is among a cluster of companies joining the home-flipping trend with its “Instant Offers” program. The company has argued the initiative appeals to sellers who need to line up a sale of their home — and the all-cash transactions provide convenience and liquidity. Other players, including Redfin, Keller Williams and Realogy, have also gotten into the iBuying game.

Murdoch’s News Corp. edged its way into the real estate listings space in 2014, when it acquired Move Inc., the parent of Zillow competitor Realtor.com, for $1 billion. It’s since had its eye on expanding in New York, where Zillow’s StreetEasy currently dominates the market.

Overall, for the second quarter, News Corp. reported revenues of $2.63 billion, a 21 percent increase compared with $2.18 billion a year earlier. Net income was $119 million compared with a net loss of $66 million in the same period the previous year. News Corp. shares have slid 22 percent over the last year, but the stock is up 8.5 percent year to date.