This post has been updated with shareholder comments of support
“We can consider a range of options for AutoScout24 and will examine these with an open mind. These could include a sale or spin-off,” Scout CEO Tobias Hartmann said in an interview with Reuters.
The Munich-based classified group announced a strategic review for AutoScout24 a week after activist investor Elliott called on Hartmann to fully separate the company’s main businesses — which also includes real estate marketplace ImmobilienScout24.
Baillie Gifford, another investor in Scout24, told Reuters it supports management and does not agree with Elliott’s actions.
“We want to support the management to achieve its future goals rather than seeking to deliver a short-term return at the expense of long-term value creation for shareholders,” fund manager Jenny Davis told Reuters in a statement.
Two German rivals — Auto1 and media conglomerate Axel Springer — are rumored to have shown interest in buying AutoScout24. Analysts believe the auto vertical could fetch up to €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion U.S.) should it come up for sale.
News of Scout24’s review came as the company reported an increase in sales for the first six months of the year, while also confirming its full-year financial targets.
Revenues rose from €251 million ($281 million U.S.) in the first half of 2018 to €301 million this year ($337 million U.S.), showing an increase of 20%. EBITDA dropped by 7% to €122 million ($137 million U.S.) over the same period.
ImmobilienScout24, the group’s largest business, saw revenues rise by 8% to €132 million ($148 million U.S.). AutoScout posted a 16% increase in sales, which climbed to €92 million ($103 million U.S.).
“We are very satisfied with the strong growth in revenue and earnings in the first six months of the year,” Hartmann said in a statement, further stressing the company’s strategic review. “We are fully committed to strengthening the focus on our two key verticals to sharpen operational efficiency and provide greater flexibility to pursue strategic options for two more autonomous verticals, ImmoScout24 and AutoScout24.”
An update on the company’s review progress will be provided at the group’s capital markets day on Nov. 26, Hartmann added.