A valuable deal for Groupon

Contact: Brenon Daly

As it preps for its public debut, we note that Groupon, the coupon giant known for offering consumers deals up to 90% off, did a bit of smart bargain shopping of its own last summer as it made an important purchase to expand business in Europe. In May 2010, Groupon picked up Berlin-based CityDeal, a Groupon clone that’s posting growth that far outstrips the already astronomical rate at the acquiring company. CityDeal wasn’t even a year old when Groupon scooped it up, although it managed to generate approximately $450m in annualized revenue in 2010. For comparison, in its first year of existence, Groupon posted $30m in sales.

Groupon has since followed up the CityDeal acquisition with about a dozen other small deal-a-day sites across the globe. However, CityDeal remains the foundation for Groupon’s international operations, a business that is growing faster and has a higher gross margin than Groupon’s original operations in North America. Groupon now gets more revenue from outside its home country than from inside, which is an almost unheard of rate of internationalization for a three-year-old startup.

Given the contribution that CityDeal is making to Groupon’s financials, it’s worth remembering that Groupon only paid $125m in stock for the acquisition. Another way to look at it is that Groupon gave away about 10% of the equity of the company (roughly 41 million shares) for a company that now accounts for more than half its business. Of course, CityDeal’s owners took their payment in equity, so they will undoubtedly see their shares soar on the public market – far above the roughly $1bn valuation Groupon had when it acquired their company. (Valuations of around $20bn for Groupon on the public market are being kicked around right now.) As we think about that deal, it strikes us as a fitting structure for Groupon to use, in that the true value isn’t realized at the time of purchase, but at the point of redemption.