Trulia expanding real estate platform with big acquisition

May 8, 2013: 10:35 AM ET

truliaappTrulia buying Market Leader for $355 million.

FORTUNE -- Online real estate listing platform Trulia (TRLA) today announced plans to acquire Market Leader (LEDR) for approximately $355 million. For those not familiar with Market Leader, it is a Kirkland, Wash.-based provider of customer relationship management software for the real estate industry, with big broker clients like Century 21.

The purchase would be at an implied value of $11.33 per Market Leader share (18% premium to yesterday's closing price), and would include $6 per share and 0.1553 shares of Trulia common stock.

I spoke about the deal with Trulia CEO Pete Flint, who insists that he didn't want to simply buy a company called "Market Leader" -- not to mention one headquartered in Zillow's (Z) backyard. Instead, he says Trulia began a strategic review late last year that included a look at M&A opportunities, and that Market Leader was at the top of its list.

"We like to think of them as the operating system for the real estate industry," Flint explains. "Just like recruiters spend half of their life in front of LinkedIn, listings agents spend half of their life in front of Market Leader. It's a unique asset."

Flint added that Trulia could not have done the deal as a private company: "After our IPO last year we went back out in February for a follow-on that raised another $100 million that gave us the balance sheet to do this transaction."

The combined company is expected to have over 40,000 paying "premium" subscribers, based on an expected overlap of around 20%. Flint says that some product offerings will be merged to offer an end-to-end experience, but that the back-end platforms Market Leader runs for clients like Century 21 and RE/MAX will be maintained separately with data not being integrated into the traditional Trulia offering.

As for future M&A -- i.e., the company below Market Leader on the strategic review list -- it doesn't sound like anything else is imminent, since this deal still needs to be completed.

As of this posting, Trulia shares are down 4.66% to $32.74 per share, while Zillow has fallen 7.2% to $58.38 per share.

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