RentPath drops acquisition deal with CoStar after FTC antitrust lawsuit


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RentPath, owner of property listing sites including Rent.com and Apartment Guide, said today it has cancelled its agreement to be acquired by CoStar Group after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block the sale.

CoStar, a commercial real estate data and analytics provider that also operates listing sites like Apartments.com and ApartmentFinder.com, agreed in February to buy RentPath for $588 million. The all-cash deal came after RentPath said it would file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. RentPath had already hired financial advisors to restructure more than $650 million in debt, reported the Wall Street Journal.

But earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission authorized an antitrust lawsuit in federal court to block the acquisition. Daniel Francis, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement that “the acquisition will eliminate price and quality competition that benefits both renters and property managers,” because CoStar and RentPath’s rivalry kept advertising rates on their platform, which include some of the most popular listing sites, low.

In its announcement today, RentPath said its chapter 11 plan remains backed by lenders, including alternative asset management firms with “strong track records of successfully investing in businesses under similar circumstances.”

The FTC’s lawsuit and RentPath’s decision to back out of the acquisition agreement comes as more countries around the world are cracking down on tech consolidation. While the United States has trailed behind other governments in terms of antitrust actions, that is gradually changing, with Amazon, Google and Facebook coming under more legislative scrutiny, and the recent lawsuit filed by 46 states against Facebook alleging that it bought competitors “illegally” to increase its market power.

The fate of the RentPath/CoStar deal may foreshadow more antitrust scrutiny for proptech companies in the United States, too. CoStar built out its business over the past decade through acquisitions and has other deals currently in the works, including listings site HomeSnap, which passed FTC review last month, and a reported bid for property analytics company CoreLogic. CoStar and RentPath competitor Zillow is also known for building its business through a series of acquisitions, including Trulia for $3.5 billion in 2014.

 


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