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UPDATE 1-Australian online property firm PEXA drops over 4% in market debut

(Adds analyst comments, closing price, background)

July 1 (Reuters) - Online real estate firm PEXA Group Ltd’s shares opened at A$17 in their market debut, below the IPO price of A$17.13 and fetching a valuation of A$3.01 billion ($2.25 billion) in Australia’s biggest listing this year.

The Melbourne-based company’s stock fell as much as 4.3% during the session, before recouping losses to close marginally higher at A$17.15.

“It was never going to be the most appealing stock, it was relatively well priced and the bookrunners ran a pretty tight ship,” said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst for independent stock market newsletter Marcus Today.

A broadly dour market view due to pandemic-led lockdowns in Australia had also weighed on sentiment, Jennings said.

PEXA, whose online exchange handles more than 300,000 transactions a month, makes the bulk of its money from property transfer fees and refinancing loans.

It has benefited from soaring property prices thanks to record-low borrowing rates and government incentives, which made it a target of buyout offers this year, including from private equity firm KKR & Co.

Link Administration Holdings Ltd, the online real estate firm’s largest shareholder, had also fielded multiple bids that analysts said were driven by interest in PEXA.

PEXA reported a more than 48% jump in fourth-quarter transaction volumes earlier on Thursday, and an outage the day before that prevented users from logging in for nearly two hours, which was later resolved.

“The temporary outage ... didn’t help volumes and it’s not a great look if you are one of the biggest floats this year,” Jennings said.

PEXA, which plans to enter the United Kingdom as early as next year, had also issued a replacement prospectus in which it noted that its ambition to expand overseas was based on its experience in the domestic market. ($1 = 1.3358 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan, Shashwat Awasthi and Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Shounak Dasgupta)

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