Back from the brink, Yellow Pages Ltd sees real estate as next battleground in digital strategy

Yellow Pages CEO Julien Billot poses for a photograph at the Yellow Pages offices in Montreal, Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

MONTREAL – Just 3 years after nearly sinking under the weight of a huge debt burden, Yellow Pages Ltd.?took another step on Tuesday in its transition from a legacy business built around delivering phonebooks to a digital-first company with the $50 million acquisition of online property platform ComFree/DuProprio.

“We already were built with a lot of business around property because we\’re very strong home based renovations, plumbing, heating systems and air conditioning – everything about homes,” said?Phone book CEO Julien Billot in an interview.

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“So being in the real estate market was very natural.”

ComFree/DuProprio?is the fourth-most visited network of properties in Canada and it has a 17 per cent share in Quebec\’s listings market, with revenue exceeding $40 million in 2014.

Today, 55 percent of Yellow Pages’ revenue is?generated from its digital assets and Billot says that proportion will grow within the coming years.

The company says it\’s reviewing about 300 markets where delivery of the print directory will finish for some high-rise buildings, streets or neighbourhoods.

In December 2014, Phone book bought the online restaurant-finding services?Bookenda and Dine.TO, and has incorporated these services into its?YP Dine mobile app, that is currently available in Montreal, but has created in other Canadian cities this month.

“What\’s true is the fact that our mission happens to be the same: connecting users with businesses in neighbourhoods and that we had to basically completely reinvent the way of doing that,” said Billot of the company that published its first directory in 1908.

“When you think about the Internet today, the world is actually getting good local because people want to do business with neighbourhoods.”