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.

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