To add to its recent woes about redundancies, Purplebricks’ share price is on the slide again, now at 12.5p as I write.
When the German publishing giant Axel Springer invested in Purplebricks back in April 2018 splashing out £125m on an 11.5% stake, it must have surely been hoping for a decent return on investment.
The company, which owns German newspapers such as Bild and Die Welt, described it as ‘an opportunity to participate in an innovative, fast growing business model in new markets’. Its shares were then £3.60 each and a considerable sum of this was spent on Purplebricks’ doomed expansion plans in the US.
It then increased its share to 12.5% in July that year, buying more shares at £3.07 each, at a cost of £9.2m. This money was invested in Purplebricks’ Canadian operations, which were subsequently sold, albeit at a small profit, but ending Purplebricks’ ambitions to become a global brand.
In June 2019, Axel Springer more than doubled its stake in Purplebricks to 26.6%, acquiring a further 43.7m shares at £1 per share.
So that’s a total of £178m invested by Axel Springer in shares in Purplebricks over the past 4 years. With share prices at 13.89p, those shares, by my estimation, are now worth just over £11.3m. So, a loss of around £166.6m. That’s staggering. Not least when you consider that Purplebricks’ shares were once worth almost £5 each.
We also see that individual shareholders have suffered sizeable losses. Our research has shown that non-executive director Simon Downing has seen a whopping £636k wiped off the value of his shares, while we can see Chairman Paul Pindar’s holdings are down at least £134k on current year transactions. Even the CEO Helena Marston, who has £100k’s worth of shares, has seen that drop by over £13k since August.
Yet people, including Paul Pindar, continue to buy shares. Investor Adam Smith, from Lecram Holdings, who is calling for Paul Pindar to resign, has increased his shareholding to 5%. No doubt hoping, optimistically, that this failed model will eventually turn the corner – despite it now being 10 years since it was first registered at Companies House (albeit under a different name). And now we see that Chief Financial Officer Steve Long is leaving after just one year in the role.
You will recall Purplebricks’ full year profits, which were eventually released in August, showed a troubled picture, with a £42m loss for the year. Revenue was down 28%, instructions were down 31%, and cash balances were down to £43.2m
With more commisery caused by an economy in flux, we now see Purplebricks’ ramping up its dreadful marketing, attacking traditional agents – with a desperate last throw of the dice. I am extending an invitation to those people being made redundant by Purplebricks to speak to Spicerhaart as they consider their future.
It’s only going to get worse for Purplebricks. With inflation running at a reported 40-year high in the UK, and mortgage rates on the rise, the housing market is not set for a boom any time soon.
Purplebricks’ founder Michael Bruce got out at the right time, moving on to set up Boomin’. But now we’ve learnt that Boomin’ plans to go into liquidation. More like Boom and Bust! I dare say there will be many more right across the industry in trouble in the months to come.
What must Axel Springer be thinking right now about the future of Purplebricks, a company which – despite throwing millions at its marketing – still hasn’t packed the promised punch? Surely the real misery is being felt by investors and staff who bought into this doomed project in the first place? How much more can they take?