Open Letter Accuses OnTheMarket of Misleading Shareholders and Calls for Change
In a recent turn of events, OnTheMarket, a prominent property portal, is facing criticism from shareholder Brett Stone. In his second open letter to fellow shareholders, Stone accuses the company of “irresponsibly diluting shareholders” and making misleading statements. The letter, shared on LinkedIn, raises concerns over the company’s declining performance and highlights the need for change and proper investment to protect shareholders’ interests and enhance customer value.
**1. Underinvestment and Losing Ground to Competitors**
One of the key points Stone raises in the letter is that OnTheMarket is underinvesting in their products, teams, and overall business strategy. As a result, they are giving an easy advantage to competitors like Rightmove. This has led to a decline in estate agent customers, a reduction in property listings, fewer site visits, slowing revenue growth, and a decline in the company’s share price. Such shortcomings are detrimental to shareholders and the company’s long-term growth prospects.
**2. Erosion of Shareholder Value**
Since OnTheMarket’s listing in February 2018, shareholders have witnessed the value of their investments plummet by two-thirds. Meanwhile, customers have faced a distressing scenario as their aggregate property portal costs have more than doubled. The overall property commerce category in the UK has remained slow, inefficient, and stressful for both estate agents and consumers, indicating the need for urgent corrective measures.
**3. Customer Losses and Revenue Slowdown**
Stone cites concerning figures indicating the scale of customer losses at OnTheMarket. Over the past year, the company lost 1,084 estate agent branches, with the number of losses this year expected to surpass that figure. In contrast, Rightmove, a major competitor, lost only 178 branches during the same period, reflecting a concerning trend for OnTheMarket. Moreover, portal visits have declined by 14%, and revenue growth has decelerated significantly in the second half, increasing by a mere £0.4 million or 2.4%.
**4. Irresponsible Dilution and Insider Options**
An alarming fact brought forward in Stone’s letter is OnTheMarket’s irresponsible dilution of shareholders. Since its initial public offering (IPO), the company has issued a staggering 19.5 million new shares and granted 13.2 million options to insiders. Such practices put existing shareholders at a disadvantage and question the company’s commitment to their interests.
**5. Misleading Public Statements**
Stone highlights that OnTheMarket’s public statements appear to be unsupported by evidence or reality. The company’s claims are not aligned with actual market performance and customer feedback. As shareholders and consumers alike, it is imperative to have transparent and accurate information to make informed decisions.
**A Rejected Win/Win Proposal**
Stone further reveals that a proposal made in October, offering significant investment in new ordinary shares, was rejected by OnTheMarket. The proposal aimed to deliver better returns for shareholders and enhance customer experience at a faster pace. Additionally, the plan included an “irevocable commitment to cap agents’ listings fees indefinitely” to protect customer interests. However, the rejection of this proposal raises concerns about the company’s willingness to act in the best interests of all stakeholders.
A spokesperson for OnTheMarket has stated that their response remains unchanged since receiving the first letter in October. The company’s board believes that Stone’s proposal was detrimental to stakeholders and did not provide sufficient evidence of shareholder support or available funding. They assert that the company has strong prospects as an independent business, citing recent trading updates with record revenues and profitability.
The second open letter from shareholder Brett Stone has placed OnTheMarket under scrutiny for allegedly misleading shareholders and failing to address critical issues that affect its long-term growth. With the decline in estate agent customers, reduced site visits, and slowing revenue growth, it is evident that the company requires a strategic overhaul to regain investor confidence and deliver value to its customers. Transparent communication and a genuine commitment to shareholder interests are essential for the sustainable growth of OnTheMarket in the competitive property market. The company must embrace change, invest wisely, and prioritize the needs of all stakeholders to ensure a prosperous future for both itself and its investors.