United Kingdom

MARKET REPORT: Investors not sold on Rightmove update

Investors weren't sold on a cheery update from Rightmove even as it said the housing market might be on the brink of another boom. 

Britons cooped up indoors scoured the property portal last year for places with more outdoor space and room to work from home. 

Record numbers visited Rightmove's site – with a flurry of potential buyers looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday which is expected to be extended to the end of June. But record website traffic did not translate to stellar results. The company's profit slid to £135m last year, down from £214m in 2019, as revenue fell to £206m from £289m. 

Much of this is down to Rightmove cutting fees for agents – keeping them on its site was more important than earning full keep during the pandemic. 

Expectations that the stamp duty cut will be extended into the summer have been welcomed by the industry – but there are some question marks about how much longer activity in the market can be kept artificially high. Rightmove said it had an 'optimistic start' to 2021, though there was a 'current shortage of new listings'. These will correct themselves, it said, once the immediate lockdown is listed and crucially it said it does not expect there to be a lasting impact on estate agency branch numbers. While many will also see these challenges as a blip, not everyone was convinced. 

Dan Lane, senior analyst at Freetrade, said there was a 'risk that complacency is setting in', adding: 'Rightmove pretty much has the online portal sector sewn up for now but if it can't turn record website hits into profits, is that a sign the model getting a bit bloated?' The annual figures failed to rouse Rightmove's shareholders, with shares down 6.8 per cent, or 41p, to 565p. 

It was a dour day too on the wider market, with the FTSE 100 falling 2.5 per cent, or 168.53 points, to 6483.43, and the FTSE 250 by 1.4 per cent, or 287.75 points, to 20910.37. 

Just three firms on the Footsie ended the week on a positive note, with British Airways-owner IAG rising 3.1 per cent, or 5.7p, to 191.95p, despite posting one of the largest corporate losses for 2020 so far. 

Reckitt Benckiser rose 0.8 per cent, or 50p, to 6000p, and Kingfisher was up 0.6 per cent, or 1.6p, to 265.4p, as stock markets around the world went into the red. 

Aston Martin went into reverse on the FTSE 250, falling 6 per cent, or 129p, to 2008p, undoing some of a rally on Thursday as shareholders looked to bank their profits. 

Although the luxury car maker also chalked up heavy losses – in what is undoubtedly a running theme this results season – promising sales of its debut SUV the DBX had helped its stock spike. 

Pub group Fuller's fell 4.2 per cent, or 38p, to 864p last night after its finance boss Adam Councell was poached by safety and regulation company Marlowe. 

Fuller's said Councell will stay until a successor has been found, joining Marlowe at some point after October. The hire got a muted reaction, with shares falling 0.4pc, or 3p, to 680p. 

Audioboom was in high demand after it was ranked the fifth largest US podcast publisher in an influential industry list. The company moved up from the sixth spot it had held since joining the Triton Digital index last May. 

It has been averaging 10.95m downloads per week in the US. 

Although Audioboom's success was music to investors' ears with its stock rising 6.2 per cent, or 25p, to 430p, Hipgnosis Songs Fund latest update fell flat. The songs royalties firm announced that 1980s classic Don't Stop Believin' by Journey, which it co-owns, had been streamed 1bn times on Spotify. It is only the second song to do so. But shares still fell 0.9 per cent, or 1p, to 114p.

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