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PropertyGuru grew sales 24% while gauging IPO window

[SINGAPORE] PropertyGuru Group, the South-east Asian startup that pulled the plug on an initial public offering (IPO) last year, grew revenue 24 per cent in 2019 thanks to surging wealth in the region.

That was the fourth straight year of revenue growth for the South-east Asian online real estate leader, chief executive officer Hari Krishnan told Bloomberg News, revealing financial performance for the first time since a 2019 prospectus.

PropertyGuru's Australian IPO was to have been one of the most-anticipated events of Singapore's tech scene last year. The 12-year-old company, started by entrepreneurs Steve Melhuish and Jani Rautiainen the same year the iPhone was launched, has become a household name in the property-crazed city-state. Today, it's the largest real estate marketplace in South-east Asia with operations in five countries including Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

The Singapore-based company's revenue rose 24 per cent from a year ago to S$88.4 million on a pro forma basis, according to Mr Krishnan. The full-year revenue topped the S$85.6 million the firm had forecast in its prospectus. Operating free cash flow rose to S$14.2 million from S$11.9 million.

"We have made forecasts which are in a public domain when we lodged our prospectus and we wanted to complete the picture," Mr Krishnan said in an interview. He said it's unclear when the firm might attempt to list again, given the economic uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. But the company rolled out new virtual viewing features in March and taken steps to emerge from the Covid-19 era stronger, he added.

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PropertyGuru sped up the rollout of new virtual viewing technology by two months to serve customers under lockdowns. The new feature added to its so-called FastKey platform creates fully digitised walkthroughs of a project and its units, as well as the surrounding cityscape. That allows potential buyers to view properties online in real time and shortlist them remotely.

"I don't think people and developers will emerge fully soon," he said. "If you are going to work from home, you are also going to also browse from home. For that, you need visualisation."

PropertyGuru is about 58 per cent owned by TPG Capital and KKR & Co. Home sales in Singapore - where PropertyGuru claims a 75 per cent market share - fell to the lowest in almost six years in April after a partial lockdown imposed that month brought the property market to a standstill. With the lockdown extended until June 1, sales in May are expected to drop even further. The lengthened lockdown also threatens to push prices down further: Home values declined by 1 per cent in the three months ended March 31, the steepest drop in more than three years.

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