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Trade Me still a growth company: CEO

By Paul McBeth

Sept. 6 (BusinessDesk) - Trade Me is poised for another growth spurt under new chief executive Anders Skoe, who wants to take the online classifieds business and turn it into a real digital marketplace.

The company was clocking high single-digit revenue growth in the tail-end of its seven-and-a-half year stint as a public company and was more of a yield play for investors happy to pocket dividend payments from the high-margin business.

Trade Me was taken over by private equity firm Apax Partners earlier this year and Skoe says the new ownership frees it to take a longer-term approach in pursuing growth opportunities.

He will draw on his experience helping reinvigorate Norway’s major online marketplace - finn.no - when it appeared to have plateaued with peak classifieds about four or five years ago.

“Trade Me is right at the cusp of expanding from being a pure traditional classifieds player to being more of a marketplace where we're solving additional problems for Kiwi businesses,” he told BusinessDesk.

That means transitioning Trade Me from renting out space for firms to list their classified ads to building products that can take a listing and expose it to a user, be that on other parts of the site or other domestic media outlets.

Skoe said there are a number of areas the company is investigating. One example is expanding the property offering to cover new builds.

“If you look at the new builds space, it’s much tougher as a consumer to really orientate yourself in that space,” he said.

“That’s an example of an adjacent opportunity for Trade Me where we could expand our offering while at same time solve both a consumer need and help builders present their offerings to consumers.”

Online real estate listings are becoming more competitive with NZME’s OneRoof unit rapidly growing revenue in that space since its launch last year. However, it lags well behind the more established Trade Me and realestate.co.nz sites.

Skoe has been meeting Trade Me’s customers since starting in July. A key thing they want is better access to the company’s data.

“It’s a tricky one, but I should emphasise we take things like privacy very seriously,” he said.

Trade Me prides itself in protecting user information and has won plaudits from the Privacy Commissioner for its efforts in keeping the public informed.

The company released its 2019 transparency report last week, which showed a 24 percent reduction in the number of information requests from police to 1,366. Requests from other government agencies was flat at 443 and releases to insurance investigators rose to 48 from 27.

Trade Me pushed back and didn’t release information in 23 requests from police and 11 times to other government agencies. It made 14 releases under a production order from police and seven to other agencies under compulsion orders.


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