LONDON: Google, the online search giant, is eyeing the UK for the launch of its second internet property portal early next year, having introduced a similar service in Australia just four months ago.

The development, like its Australian counterpart, is expected to enable estate agents to list properties free of charge, complemented by pictures and location details drawn from the search company's Street View and Google Maps websites.

While the prospective service is likely to attract significant interest from advertisers, it could spell a serious blow for classified property advertising in local newspapers, which have seen revenues in this area drop by up to two thirds over the last 12 months, as a result of online competition and the overall slump in the property market.

Existing online portals, such as the industry leader Rightmove, which charges estate agents an average of £325 ($539; €357) per month to advertise on its service, are also likely to be affected. When news reached the financial markets yesterday, Rightmove's share price fell 10% but later stabilised.

Commented Douglas McCabe of the research firm, Enders Analysis: “This sounds like a serious problem for Rightmove and others like them, depending on the model Google uses, but eventually it will affect everyone and newspapers will suffer another chapter in the story of consumers being more and more aware of alternatives to their classified advertising.”

Google has yet to comment on the UK launch, although initial indications from the Australian experience show that estate agents have retained their presence – for now – on existing online services.

Ed Williams, managing director of Rightmove, said: “We provide visibility of brand and logo. Agents are spending money on raising brand awareness, not getting more properties online.”

Data sourced from the Financial Times; additional information by WARC staff