April 20, 2024

DealBook: Groupon Files to Go Public

The social buying site Groupon filed on Thursday to go public with plans to raise an estimated $750 million in a highly anticipated debut that comes amid a frenzy for new technology companies like LinkedIn and Yandex.

Groupon, a Chicago-based start-up, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in its short life. Shortly after starting in 2008, Groupon notched revenue of $94 million. Two years later, it had swelled to $713 million.

The company reported $644.7 million of revenue in the first quarter of 2011 alone, with 83 million subscribers across 43 countries, according to its filing.

As its prospects have grown, so has investor interest.

Last year, the company was worth roughly $1.4 billion, based on a fund-raising round led by D.S.T. Global. Groupon spurned a $6 billion bid from Google in December. A month later, the start-up raised nearly $1 billion from large institutional investors like Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price. Groupon’s value was pegged at $25 billion just a couple of months ago, based on discussions for the initial public offering.

In a letter to prospective shareholders, Groupon’s chief executive, Andrew Mason, highlighted the company’s growth opportunity but cautioned investors to temper their expectations.

“In the past, we’ve made investments in growth that turned a healthy, forecasted quarterly profit into a sizable loss,” he said. “When we see opportunities to invest in long-term growth, expect that we will pursue them regardless of certain short-term consequences.”

Like many start-ups, Groupon is still struggling to turn a profit. Last year, the company’s loss topped $450 million, compared with $6.9 million in 2009 and $2.2 million in 2008.

It’s unclear when its fortunes will turn. The company warned, under the risk factors in its filing, that it had lost money since its inception and that it expected its operating expenses to grow for some time.

The company’s biggest expense is marketing. Groupon spent $263.2 million on online advertising, subscriber e-mails and the like, compared with just $4.5 million the year before.

“We cannot be certain that we will be able to attain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis,” the filing said.

Groupon’s investors and early employees stand to reap a windfall in an I.P.O. The company’s largest shareholder, Eric P. Lefkofsky, a co-founder and board member, would be worth billions of dollars. Mr. Lefkofsky owns 64.1 million shares, or roughly 21.6 percent of the company’s Class A common stock. The venture capital firm, Accel Partners, which invested in Groupon in November 2009, owns a 5.6 percent stake. Mr. Mason, who made $180,000 for his base salary last year, controls 7.7 percent of the company.

Groupon, which will trade under the ticker “GRPN,” has hired Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs as lead underwriters for the offering.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=93ed15141cda9e99025850c9679d6403

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