So-called ‘New Europe’ is emerging as an important Web 2.0 market. Revenue growth is steady in the mid- to high-double digits compared to low-double digits for the established US web portals. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by global companies scrambling to tap into these faster-growing markets. The latest example is the rumored sale of leading Czech Republic search engine and web portal Seznam. Goldman Sachs has reportedly been tapped to head the sale. Google, Microsoft and private equity shop Warburg Pincus are said to all be serious contenders, according to the Czech media.
Seznam is closely held. Founder Ivo Lukacovic owns just over two-thirds of the company, with the rest held by investment firms Tiger Holding Four and Miura International. The 450-employee portal says it took in about $55m last year, up from about $30m the year before. Revenue is expected to reach $80m for the year. Seznam is reportedly being shopped around at a valuation of $900m. At a multiple of 11 times sales, that is a premium compared to a similar deal inked by Warburg Pincus last year. The buyout firm acquired Seznam competitor NetCentrum for $150m at a multiple of 6.5 times revenue. Nonetheless, compared to recent US Web 2.0 deals, the rumored valuation of Seznam is in line with, or at a discount to, market prices.
If a deal for Seznam gets done, the purchase will stand as one of the largest Internet deals ever inked in the former Soviet block. And as the Eastern European Internet market continues to grow, we believe so will the M&A activity from anxious companies trying to make an early land grab. Meanwhile, other search engines may look to go it alone. Yandex, a leading Russian portal, has reportedly been preparing for a US public offering for some time now, but an almost nonexistent IPO market may lead it to consider a sale, instead. We’re fairly certain that Google and Microsoft stand ready to provide the liquidity for either (or both) of these companies if the public markets can not.
Recent transatlantic search M&A
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase