Media tycoon Murdoch buys Malaysia's iProperty for $750m

The Malaysia-based iProperty has been acquired by a unit owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch for a whopping A$751 million (S$750 million), making it the largest acquisition of an Asean start-up.

iProperty provides online listings of properties for sale and rent in Asean countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

It was founded in 2007 by Australian serial entrepreneur Patrick Grove, who invested only A$300,000 in it.

"It is 16 times return on investment for investors, which is a very good deal," Mr Grove told The Straits Times.

He is stepping down as chairman in light of the acquisition by REA Group, which is part of Australian conglomerate News Corp.

He said the deal shows that South-east Asian companies can create value. "It is a huge pat on the back for us," he added.

iProperty was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2009 at 25 Australian cents, reaching a high of A$3.93 in March last year. It closed at A$3.84 yesterday.

Revenue in 2013 was A$24 million.

It is part of Malaysian investment firm Catcha Group's company portfolio. Mr Grove is co-founder of Catcha Group.

Ms Peggy Lee, Catcha's director of corporate communications, said the acquisition is a fantastic growth indicator for South-east Asian start-ups.

"This deal shows that sizeable companies can be built in South-east Asia and that global players are willing to write big cheques to move in," she noted, adding that it should also be an inspiration to entrepreneurs and investors that only A$300,000 can turn into A$751 million in eight years.

The acquisition strengthens REA's position in offering online real-estate classified advertising across the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Grove, an Australian who is a Malaysian permanent resident, lives in Kuala Lumpur. His parents live in Singapore.

He started Catcha as an online news portal in the late 1990s in Singapore during the first boom, but the bubble burst just before the firm was to be listed in the United States.

Instead of bailing out, he persuaded investors to put in more money to turn the company around and he expanded into publishing.

The company became successful, investors got their money back and Mr Grove moved Catcha to Kuala Lumpur, where costs were lower.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline Media tycoon Murdoch buys Malaysia's iProperty for $750m. Subscribe