MONTREAL – Just three years after nearly sinking under the weight of a huge debt burden, Yellow Pages Ltd. took another step on Tuesday in its transition from a legacy business built around delivering phonebooks to a digital-first company with the $50 million purchase of online real estate platform ComFree/DuProprio.
“We already had a lot of business around real estate because we are very strong in home renovations, plumbing, heating systems and air conditioning — everything about homes,” said Yellow Pages CEO Julien Billot in an interview.
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Often, when analysts decide a company is dead in the water, they will drop coverage and move on.
“So being in the real estate market was very natural.”
ComFree/DuProprio is the fourth-most visited network of real estate properties in Canada and has a 17 per cent share in Quebec’s listings market, with revenue exceeding $40 million in 2014.
Today, 55 per cent of Yellow Pages’ revenue is generated from its digital assets and Billot says that proportion will grow in the coming years.
The company says it is reviewing about 300 markets where delivery of the print directory could end for some high-rise buildings, streets or neighbourhoods.
In December 2014, Yellow Pages bought the online restaurant-finding services Bookenda and Dine.TO, and has incorporated these services into its YP Dine mobile app, which is currently available in Montreal, but is rolling out in other Canadian cities this month.
“What’s true is that our mission has always been the same: connecting users with businesses in neighbourhoods and we had to basically completely reinvent the way of doing that,” said Billot of the company that published its first directory in 1908.
“When you think about the Internet today, the world is actually getting more local because people want to do business with neighbourhoods.”