Foxtons share fall: symbol of market decline?

A leading financial online and print publication says alarm bells should ring about the start of the London market because the share price for Foxtons have fallen to a one-year low.

The outlet - Moneyweek - is not, however, yet another media outlet with a downer on Foxtons - in fact, quite the reverse.

“Whatever you might think of it, Foxtons has always innovated. It started with the longer hours and 0 per cent commission in the first three months of an office opening” explains Dominic Frisby, Moneyweek’s analyst.

“Then there was the distinctive branding, not to mention dramatic improvements in the ways property was presented on paper. The photography,  write-ups, brochures, magazines. It was the first to do 360° virtual tours. The branded cars (love them or loathe them, they stand out), the café offices, the persistent, commission-hungry sales force, the websites, the apps – it never stops” he enthuses.

But his theory regarding the gloomy warning from the firm’s share price goes like this.

Foxtons went public in August 2013, raised £55m, and entered the FTSE 250. At its peak in March the share price hit 398p, but since then it has fallen badly and last week hit a one year low of around 261p, making its market value around £740m instead of over £1 billion. 

Frisby goes on to say that in many parts of London - if recent price indices and agents’ reports are to be believed - the market has slowed suddenly. But it is not the slowdown in price growth, or even price falls, that may cause damage to Foxtons’ share price - it is the threat created by falling transaction volumes, which more seriously impact the business.

“What we are seeing just now in London is a backing off from extreme valuations. But will it turn into something bigger? Foxtons could be our omen” warns Frisby.

His pessimistic piece came before Hometrack’s latest data which showed says that 11 per cent of London postcodes had registered price falls in the past month - roughly balancing the 12 per cent that saw gains.