The mooted online alliance between Fairfax and
News Limited’s online recruitment businesses may have come to nought,
but market leader Seek isn’t likely to sit on its hands and wait for
the newspaper elephants to stampede. A couple of weeks ago Crikey ran
an interesting tip claiming that the
25%-PBL-owned Seek is looking to branch out into online property
classified “by
a combo of internally developed property services and acquiring
remaining property classifieds businesses.”

They will merge this with
Ninemsn’s distribution network, lower prices for the agents and really
squeeze Domain and realestate.com.au etc. It will have the financial
backing to make a big dent in the market! Apparently the assault will be launched through PBL’s 25% owned
associate Seek, which has bought large volumes of free to air
television and outdoor media to market something large in September and
October.

Now we’re able to slot another piece into the online real estate puzzle. According to sources close to the deal Seek’s head of
M&A, Jason Lenga, is in the final negotiations to purchase an online
real estate lead generation business based in NSW – whatpricemyhouse.com.

Lenga and a small group of associates are believed to be the
highest bidder for the NSW based site with
the sale price believed to be in the vicinity of $3 million. This
morning Lenga told Crikey he’s acting as a private individual and not
bidding on behalf of Seek, so we can only assume Seek isn’t interested
in mopping up minnows while it has bigger fish to fry.

PBL already has a slice of motoring classifieds through Carsales.com.au
as well as employment through Seek – and if “two out of three ain’t bad”
for Meatloaf it sure would be for James Packer, who can be expected to be focused on the
commercial benefits of completing the motoring/employment/real estate triumvirate.

As Stephen Mayne pointed out a couple of weeks ago, if Seek can make
serious inroads into the property market, James Packer might yet get to
score another victory over News Ltd and Fairfax without buying into the
dinosaur world of dead tree newspaper journalism.

Lenga is obviously keeping a close eye on the market. It’s unlikely his next purchase will be a side deal with a few mates.

Peter Fray

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