Making money with coupons

Contact: Ben Kolada

Online coupon directory vendor RetailMeNot, formerly known as WhaleShark Media, filed its IPO paperwork on Monday. A total of seven investment banks crowded onto the offering, which could initially value the company in the ballpark of $800m. Meanwhile, a recent high-priced buyout and a couple of more coupon deals that we hear are in the pipeline could make 2013 a breakout year for the online couponing industry.

RetailMeNot has grown dramatically since its incorporation as smallponds in 2007. Through organic and inorganic growth, RetailMeNot increased total revenue 80% to $145m last year. The company primarily did business as WhaleShark Media throughout its lifetime, but rebranded as RetailMeNot this year, taking the name of a startup it acquired in 2010 and whose websites now account for the majority of its traffic.

No fewer than seven investment banks have piled onto the offering, with Morgan Stanley taking the lead left spot. RetailMeNot plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol SALE.

The midpoint valuation of recent comparable transactions suggests that the company could debut at about $800m, or roughly 5x its trailing sales ($155m as of March 31). RetailMeNot was valued at 5.6x trailing sales in its $159m sale to WhaleShark Media in 2010. More recently, we estimate that Slickdeals was valued at 4.6x sales in its quiet sale to Warburg Pincus at the turn of this year.

At least two other coupon companies will be closely watching RetailMeNot’s debut. We’ve heard that CouponMom and dealnews have also been in the market recently.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Cash may be king, but Trulia ‘papers’ its big deal

Contact: Brenon Daly

Cash may be king when it comes to M&A, but the currency got dethroned in Trulia’s blockbuster acquisition yesterday. The real estate website is covering almost half of its $355m purchase of Market Leader with stock. Few deals rely that heavily on paper. In fact, stock has accounted for only about 20% of total disclosed consideration in tech transactions so far this year, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase.

A look at the performance of Trulia shares since the company’s IPO last September offers some explanation as to the structure. Recently, the stock has been changing hands at about twice the level the company initially priced them at for the offering. On the acquisition announcement, however, Trulia stock dropped about 8% to $31.68. (One concern on Wall Street? The size of the transaction: Market Leader will add about 60% to Trulia’s top line when the deal closes, which is expected in the third quarter of this year.)

Still, Trulia garners a market cap of about $890m, or an eye-popping 13 times 2012 revenue of $68m. We would note – on the same measure of equity value to last year’s sales – that Trulia is paying only 8x revenue for Market Leader. That bit of valuation disparity may also figure into why Trulia was so keen to put its (relatively richly) priced paper to work in M&A.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

IntraLinks finally gets to use its deal room

Contact: Brenon Daly

Although IntraLinks is well-known for its ‘virtual deal rooms,’ the company itself hasn’t spent much time in them. That changed on Thursday. After being out of the market for more than a decade, IntraLinks announced a double-barreled deal, picking up two online deal-sourcing platforms, MergerID and PE-Nexus. (And yes, the company did use its own deal room to run the process.)

The addition of the two sourcing platforms makes sense as a way to increase the number of transactions that get executed in IntraLinks’ core deal room. In fact, the company had added sourcing and networking features around the end of 2011, but had only attracted a few hundred users. MergerID and PE-Nexus dramatically increase the number of potential participants, with the two firms having attracted, collectively, some 5,000 firms representing about 7,200 total users.

Further, the two platforms serve very different markets. MergerID – divested by the FT Group’s Mergermarket division – focuses on midmarket deals, primarily in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, PE-Nexus (as its name implies) largely targets US private equity shops from its Florida headquarters. IntraLinks has indicated that it will pick up 11 employees from the two firms, and we understand that very little revenue will be added from the two subscription-based services.

More broadly, IntraLinks’ move fits with the strategy and recent performance of its business. The M&A unit, which represented 42% of total revenue in 2012, was the only one of the company’s three divisions to post growth last year. The 9% increase in its M&A-related revenue in 2012 helped bump up the overall top line at IntraLinks during what was – by design – a year of stabilization and investment.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Priceline gets KAYAK for a good price

Contact: Ben Kolada, Brenon Daly

For a price comparison website, appears to be settling for a relatively low price in its purchase by online travel giant At first glance, Priceline’s offer for KAYAK appears respectable. The $40-per-share bid is the highest KAYAK’s shares have seen in its short life on the Nasdaq. Using an enterprise value of $1.65bn, KAYAK is being valued at 5.8 times trailing revenue and about 5.6x full-year 2012 revenue.

But as we look closer, we see that KAYAK is being valued only slightly higher than Priceline’s current trading valuation, and that’s excluding any takeout premium for the acquirer. With an enterprise value of roughly $28bn, Priceline trades at about 5.5x trailing revenue and 5.3x 2012 revenue. (Priceline shares, which have tacked on roughly 15% so far this year, were unchanged on the news of its largest-ever acquisition.)

Valuation – especially for the acquirer – is a key concern in this transaction because unlike most tech deals, Priceline is covering almost three-quarters of the cost of its purchase with equity. Under terms, Priceline will hand over $1.3bn in stock and $500m in cash for KAYAK. As mentioned, paying with paper is relatively rare these days, because cash is king when it comes to M&A. In fact, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, Priceline’s acquisition of KAYAK is one of only 12 deals done by US public acquirers so far this year where stock has accounted for more than half the total consideration.

Despite faster growth, KAYAK’s valuation is only slightly above Priceline’s

Company EV EV/2012 projected revenue 2012/2011 revenue growth
Priceline $28.03bn* 5.3 21%
KAYAK $1.65bn 5.6 31%

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, 451 Research estimates. *Calculated as of 11/8/12.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

InronPlanet throws its IPO paperwork on the scrap heap

Contact: Brenon Daly

The road to the public market is turning into a dead end for an increasing number of companies. IronPlanet has pulled its IPO paperwork, just days after AVAST Software also scrapped its planned offering. The two companies operate in wildly different markets, with IronPlanet serving as an online marketplace for industrial machinery and AVAST selling security software to consumers. While both cited ‘market conditions’ as the reason for their withdrawals, it’s a bit of a stretch to see it applied to both.

In the case of AVAST, the company almost certainly could have gotten public, if it were willing to take a bit of a discount on its pricing. (AVAST, which was growing at about 40% annually and richly profitable, was nonetheless dinged by concerns over its focus on the consumer, rather than enterprise, market as well as a less-than-robust IPO by fellow European security software provider AVG Technologies.) But rather than cut its value to convince investors to buy into the offering, AVAST will stay private until ‘market conditions’ change.

On the other hand, IronPlanet won’t make it to the Nasdaq anytime soon. Although the company filed its prospectus in March 2010, it hadn’t updated its financials in more than a year. And the numbers it revealed then would have gotten it roughed up on Wall Street. In 2010 (the latest full-year results available), IronPlanet grew just 7%, down from 56% in 2009. (The paltry growth rate continued in the first half of 2011, too.) Meanwhile, IronPlanet has swung to a loss after posting black numbers in the past. That’s clearly not the profile of a company that will appeal to investors, particularly ones that have been burned on their investments in recent IPOs that have posted slowing growth and declining margins.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Online coupon service providers a hot commodity

Contact: Brian Satterfield

With Groupon’s IPO looming on the horizon, the online coupon business model is attracting more attention than ever before. That’s also coming through in deal flow, with the number of transactions in the emerging sector having increased more than six-fold so far this year compared to last year. The main driver for these deals is the push by deal-a-day sites to buy their way into new markets, mostly overseas. (We’ve already noted how Groupon got an incredible value on its primary international purchase, Berlin-based CityDeal.)

Like the online coupon market itself, M&A in the sector is accelerating at a dizzying rate after a very recent start. As a proxy for the overall daily deal market, consider the almost unprecedented growth of Groupon: the Chicago-based company launched in November 2007, generated less than $1m in sales in 2008 but then posted sales of $30m in 2009 and more than $700m last year. In terms of acquisitions, we only tallied the first online coupon transaction in the sector in April 2010. That was one of just five acquisitions in the market that we recorded in the first half of 2010. In comparison, we’ve already had 29 online coupon acquisitions this year – a 500% increase.

Geographic expansion is the primary factor driving the robust growth in this sector, as more than half of the 43 total online coupon deals that we’ve seen appear to be driven by a push into new markets, both domestically and overseas. Groupon, which has been the buyer in nearly one-quarter of all online coupon transactions, exemplifies this trend, pocketing a total of 11 competitors overseas. Meanwhile, the company hasn’t made a single consolidation move in its home market. That’s not surprising, given that Groupon’s international operations, which account for the majority of its revenue, are growing faster and run at a higher margin than its US business.

Online coupon transactions

Period Deal volume
Q1-Q2, 2009 0
Q1-Q2, 2010 5
YTD 2011 29

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

eBay bids high for GSI

Contact: Ben Kolada

In its largest deal in the past half-decade, eBay is set to acquire e-commerce vendor GSI Commerce for $2.4bn. The company hasn’t made such a move since September 2005, when it forked over $2.6bn for VoIP provider Skype. And while hindsight shows that eBay certainly overpaid for that property, on an equity value basis, this transaction actually carries the highest bid eBay has offered. (We would also note that this pending acquisition is the largest Internet deal since February 2008.)

Although the deal represents a fairly standard price-to-sales valuation, it carries a hefty share price premium that makes the 40-day go-shopping clause more of a formality than anything else. The $29.25-per-share cash offer values GSI at 1.6 times its trailing sales, in line with other public takeovers, but it represents a premium of 51% over GSI’s closing share price on Friday and the highest price its shares have seen since July 2010. That’s more than twice the premiums eBay offered for Gmarket in April 2009 and in June 2005. The valuation is actually slightly higher when considering that eBay isn’t interested in the entire company. As per terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, eBay will divest GSI’s licensed sports merchandise business and 70% of its ShopRunner and Rue La La assets to a newly formed company led by GSI founder and CEO Michael Rubin.

IronPlanet: heavy metal and high margins

Contact: Brenon Daly

We recently noted that for the IPO market, thin is in. The offering sizes for many of the would-be debutants have been trimmed, as have the initial valuations. But in one area, some of the companies that are looking to come to market are still very, very bloated: funding. Force10 Networks, which put in its IPO paperwork earlier this month, had hit up investors for more than $400m. Motricity, which filed back in January, also raised at least that much.

So it was refreshing to skim the recently filed prospectus from IronPlanet, an online marketplace for industrial machines. Certainly, brokering the sales of tractors and bulldozers isn’t the sexiest business. But there’s good money to be made, at least based on IronPlanet’s recent performance. The capital-efficient company has been profitable for the past four years. (And that’s GAAP profitability, not the ‘kinda, sorta’ profitability that most private companies talk about.) Although it has raised some $47m in venture backing, IronPlanet currently has $30m of cash and equivalents on its balance sheet – a number that’s growing.

The 10-year-old company has increased revenue more than 50% in each of the past two years, finishing 2009 with $54.7m in sales. (It sold nearly a half-billion dollars worth of heavy machinery on its network last year.) And IronPlanet isn’t just running its business for cash. It spends heavily on sales and marketing (44% of revenue in 2009) to increase its profile and has put some money behind its recent push to expand geographically.

Two years ago, IronPlanet started investing in business outside of North America. The international unit, which generates roughly 10% of total sales, currently burns cash, while the legacy North America unit hums along at about 20% EBITDA margins. (Overall gross margins stand at an enviable 78%.) In looking ahead to forecast Wall Street’s reception for this online marketplace, we might point out that eBay shares have tacked on 110% over the past year, twice the gain of the Nasdaq during the same period.

EBay unwinds and adds on

Contact: Brenon Daly

For a company that essentially matches buyers and sellers, eBay has been doing a lot of dealing of its own this week. It has picked up a controlling stake in Gmarket, the South Korean online auction house. When we wrote about this possible deal in mid-August, we noted that eBay was willing to pay a not-insignificant premium for Gmarket. Makes sense, given that international sales have been growing more than twice as fast as US sales in recent quarters. (Ebay reports first-quarter earnings next Wednesday.)

The acquisition of a chunk of Gmarket, which is eBay’s first purchase since November, comes as the company also moved to unwind a pair of previous purchases. In the more straightforward of the two, eBay said it will sell StumbleUpon back to the founders of the online bookmarking site. The divestiture comes two years after eBay paid $75m for the property.

We would note that the deal is actually the second sale of an online bookmarking site in the past month. In mid-March, LookSmart divested its Furl property to Diigo, picking up an undisclosed chunk of equity in its privately held rival. While neither transaction performed as the acquirer had hoped, LookSmart did indeed look smarter than eBay because it paid only $1m for its flier on Furl, compared to the $75m that eBay handed over for StumbleUpon.

Rather than go the same route of divesting to former owners, eBay hopes to find a whole new set of buyers for its planned unwinding of Skype. It plans to spin the VoIP vendor to public market investors next year. (We’ll withhold comment on the rather unconventional ‘dual track’ that eBay has now set up for Skype. Just as we’ll withhold comment on the fact that ‘Skype’ rhymes with ‘hype.’)

If it’s lucky, eBay may see the division valued at about half of the $4.1bn that it spent on Skype (including earnouts) back in September 2005. EBay has already acknowledged that it overpaid for Skype, writing down some $1.4bn of the purchase price. While reports have indicated that Skype’s initial founders may be trying to repurchase the company from eBay (a la StumbleUpon), it appears those talks have ended. Still, we could very well see Skype getting snapped up in a trade sale before it hits the public market next year. In a mid-October report, we noted that any of the telcos or even Nokia might be interested in owning the largest VoIP provider.

eBay deal flow

Year Deal volume Deal value
2009 0* $0*
2008 4 $1.5bn
2007 3 $385m
2006 2 $75m
2005 7 $5.1bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *Excludes purchase of controlling stake of Gmarket

Returning to eBasics

-by Thomas Rasmussen

Despite its stock trading near a five-year low and plans to cut 10% of its workforce, eBay managed to go shopping last week, picking up a pair of companies for a total of $1.3bn. The auction giant spent $945m on Bill Me Later, an online payment processor popular among big-ticket retailers, and $390m on Danish classifieds giant Den Bla Avis. The acquisitions mark a return by eBay’s recently appointed CEO John Donahoe to a focus on the company’s core operations. It also brings into sharper relief the largest strategic misstep by Donahoe’s predecessor Meg Whitman: the purchase of Skype. We believe that will soon be remedied, with the newly refocused eBay divesting its communications division.

It’s clear why eBay would want to return to its roots, and why the Bill Me Later acquisition makes a lot of sense. (The purchase of Den Bla Avis is another step in the company’s international expansion strategy.) Bill Me Later is a complementary acquisition to eBay’s PayPal payments division, which unlike the Skype acquisition has paid off handsomely. The payments segment now represents more than 25% of total revenue, or $2.2bn for the past 12 months, while Skype only brought in about $475m, or roughly 6% of total revenue. (Remember that eBay paid just $1.5bn for PayPal but handed over $2.5bn for Skype.) So who might want to pick up the Skype business?

Just because eBay has struggled to realize a return on its acquisition of Skype doesn’t mean another owner, particularly one focused on communications, couldn’t do well with the property. With about 340 million registered users, Skype is the undisputed leader in VoIP. That commanding market share is likely to attract attention from the existing telcos. It is particularly enticing once you factor in what is happening in the mobile space right now and Skype’s position to dominate mobile VoIP. So far, the wireless telcos have been fighting to keep Wi-Fi, VoIP and other services they do not control or profit from off their handsets. This is a battle they are quickly losing (case in point: Android, BlackBerry and iPhone). Much in the same way that the legacy telcos were quick to adopt wireless technology when it was still in its infancy rather than cling to the wires, it makes sense to try to profit from the trend rather than fight it. Another likely bidder for Skype is Nokia, which has been an avid acquirer of mobile content in its bid to move away from strictly hardware. In addition, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo might consider picking up Skype, since all three of these companies have used acquisitions to enter the emerging mobile communications market.

Performance of select eBay acquisitions

Date of acquisition Target Deal value Current TTM revenue Current revenue to deal value multiple
September 12, 2005 Skype $2.5bn $475m 5.2x
July 8, 2002 PayPal $1.5bn $2.5bn 0.6x
October 6, 2008 Bill Me Later $945m $130m (projected for calendar year ending December 31) 7.2x
October 6, 2008 Den Bla Avis $390m $58m (reported) 6.7x

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase