Online auction firm BidX1 expands operations

BidX1, the rapidly growing online auction firm, has launched the next phase in its expansion.

The company, which can be thought of as a digital property agent, is launching its marketplace in both Cyprus and Spain, adding to sales programmes this month in the UK, Ireland and South Africa.

BidX1 is proving an increasingly popular method for owners of real estate such as private equity firms and banks to offload small residential and commercial lot sizes. In the case of the private equity firms, assets for sale are frequently those initially acquired via the acquisition of NPL portfolios. Sellers are taking a liking to the platform as a speedy way to offload these small lot sizes in a transparent, enforceable way with a full audit trail to demonstrate best price has been achieved.

The growth of BidX1 can be seen by its recent sales volumes: In 2018, it auctioned properties with a total value of €300 mln and expects the figure to reach €450 mln in 2019. It takes a percentage of the sales achieved.

Buyers logging onto the platform come from an array of backgrounds and include private individuals and small property companies from a current total of 23 countries. However, BidX1’s data base of buyers tracking assets shows interest from many more territories besides.

Founder and CEO Stephen McCarthy explained not only is the service providing an efficient sales platform but is also proving to be an excellent gatherer of data that can reflect buyer trends and preferences. 

For 2020, the plan is to add Greece, Portugal and Italy to its latest markets of Spain and Cyprus, added McCarthy, who highlighted part of the proof of the model’s success to date was the calibre of people that have joined the company.

Earlier this year, managing director of Europe, Johnny Horgan, was appointed to spearhead international growth having led the capital markets team for the last five years at CBRE Ireland. In Spain, BidX1 is led by Daniela Marchesano and Javier de Pablo, who have joined from Oaktree Capital Management and Merlin Properties respectively.

Assets sold so far are 60/40 split between residential and commercial property. Retail property makes up 40% of the commercial properties, but it has sold everything from hotels to student accommodation and even a nunnery.

‘The launch of BidX1 as a global digital marketplace for real estate, penetrating five markets, marks a pivotal point in property trading,’ said McCarthy. He added the platform expected a sale more than once a week on average in 2020.

McCarthy first began to sell assets in Ireland via auction firm Space Property Group. As that business flourished, he persuaded UK auction house Allsop to form a JV with him as the Irish partner. In 2017, McCarthy bought out Allsop’s share and turned it into an online platform with a business plan to expand to other territories.

McCarthy said, ‘No-one is doing what we do digitally across Europe.’

In the US, there are examples. The largest firm conducting such business is Auction.com which rebranded as Ten-X to signify its shift from physical auctions to online. A majority interest in that company was sold in 2017 to private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners for a reported $1 bn-plus.

Last year, Pollen Street Capital, a private equity firm, acquired a stake in BidX1, again proving interest in such platforms.

The firm has opened an initial office in Portugal and suggests Greece will follow in 2020 as the Mediterranean country is the most active NPL market in Europe currently. Italy is described as being a ‘deep market’.

Horgan explained, ‘We see activity from our business growing exponentially over the next few years.’

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