Singapore court finds 99.co in partial breach of agreement with PropertyGuru

PropertyGuru CEO Hari Krishnan at DEALSTREETASIA's Asia PE-VC Summit 2017 in Singapore.

A Singapore court on Friday ruled that realty portal 99.co had partially breached a settlement agreement it had earlier reached with rival PropertyGuru

The settlement agreement, which was entered into by both parties in September 2015, aimed to resolve the issue of 99.co reproducing listings scraped from PropertyGuru’s website.

In a 49-page ruling this week, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng allowed the claim by PropertyGuru for “breach of settlement agreement in part, in that the defendant (99.co) is liable for the breach of cl2.1 (a) of the settlement agreement by substantially reproducing one listing with the nine photographs from the PG website to the 99 website.”

Peng asked 99.co to desist from cross-posting from PropertyGuru’s website and said that the latter could proceed with assessing damages caused due to the breach of contract.

Jani Rautiainen, Executive Director & Co-founder, PropertyGuru, said, “Today’s verdict sends a strong message about fair-play & good business ethics.There are no shortcuts to success. If a business takes an unfair shortcut and breaks the rules, it should be held to account for it. The defendant broke the rules and we are happy that the court today has validated that. The defendant must stop reproducing our listings.”

However, the court sided with 99.co with regard to PropertyGuru’s two other allegations – inducing property agents to breach the latter’s terms of use and acceptable use policy, and infringing copyright by reproducing images from its website.

In a blog postDarius Cheung, founder and CEO of 99.co, hailed the verdict as a victory for the internet and for content creators.

“If you were to upload a photo to Facebook or Instagram or eBay – these sites do not and should not automatically get the rights on your photo simply by adding watermarks or basic modification – and that the rights to the photo ultimately still belongs to the user. Otherwise, all hell breaks loose and the rights to the photos posted on the internet (inadvertently via a platform), would belong to the platform who claims them as their own and use them however they please,” he wrote.

Having started a decade ago, PropertyGuru currently operates in five markets — Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. In 2012, the real estate platform secured a $47-million investment from ImmobilienScout24, one of the largest telcos in Germany, marking the biggest funding by a telecom firm in a real estate website in Asia. Later in 2015, it closed a $125 million funding round from Australia-based Square Peg Capital, private equity major TPG and Emtek Group.

Meanwhile, 99.co is a relatively new company that was launched in Singapore in 2015 and expanded to Indonesia in 2016 and has been offering property listings, data science products and agents tools, among other products, in Southeast Asia’s largest market. Early this year, it had acquired UrbanIndo.com, one of the largest real estate platforms in Indonesia, for an undisclosed sum.

Also Read:

No IPO in 2018, will raise capital if there is inorganic opportunity: PropertyGuru CEO

Singapore’s 99.co acquires Indonesian real estate platform UrbanIndo

DSA Summit: PropertyGuru open to more investment, IPO up in air

(Editor’s note: This article was updated on March 9 to reflect the judgement in its entirety. A previous version of the article had erroneously claimed that the Singapore court had ruled in favour of PropertyGuru, referring only to the breach of settlement agreement aspect of the lawsuit.)

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.