China’s leading real estate portal SouFun (NYSE: SFUN), which recently changed its web address to Fang.com, announced that it has partnered with home agency company Tospur Real Estate Consulting to purchase a 16% share in the latter via private placement for around RMB381 million (US$62 million) in cash.
Under the deal, the two companies will also invest RMB60 million (US$9.8 million) and RMB40 million (US$6.5 million) respectively, to form a joint venture to provide real estate financing services. This sector is expected to become a pillar business of SouFun, which just launched a third-party financing business last year.
Formed in Shanghai in 1998, Tospur is a leading Chinese real estate service provider. It offers real estate marketing and sales agency service, financial services, commercial property operation service, and consulting services.
SouFun has been in a strained relationship with its customers this year, amid a slowdown in the domestic property market. Several real estate agencies launched a boycott against excessive fees charged by SouFun for listing property information on the site.
Moreover, SouFun is no longer just a online platform, as it seeks to expand its brokerage business. Before investing in Tospur, SouFun had invested in three leading Chinese real estate firms: World Union Properties Consultancy (SZ: 002285) and Hopefluent Group (HK: 00733), and Century 21 China.
Given the direct conflict of interests, HomeLink, a Beijing-based property agency, has halted its listings on SouFun, citing concerns with SouFun’s behavior in stealing listing information from individual agencies, as it stated in an open letter. (It’s worth noting that HomeLink is also trying to tap the online market by rebranding its home-grown property listing site as Lianjia.com).
5i5j, another leading property agency, also plans to suspend cooperation with SouFun this year.