Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 11 News List

Groupon said to spurn Google’s acquisition offer

NO THANKS:Google had made a US$6 billion offer for the Internet-coupon firm as it looks to reduce its reliance on Internet-search advertising revenue

Bloomberg

Groupon Inc, a Chicago-based -Internet-coupon service with more than 35 million users, walked away from an acquisition offer from Google Inc yesterday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The proposed acquisition fell through amid hesitation by Groupon’s founders, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private.

The startup will decide next year whether to sell shares in an initial public offering instead, the person said.

FUTURE TALKS

The discussions could resume if both sides overcome their differences.

Google had offered US$6 billion, including incentives that would be paid to the target’s managers if performance targets were met, people familiar with the matter had said this week.

Groupon would have helped its new owner expand in the US$133 billion US local-ad market and lessen the company’s reliance on Internet-search advertising.

“Clearly Google wants to get into the local space and Groupon was one way,” said Aaron Kessler, an analyst at ThinkEquity LLC in San Francisco, who has a “buy” rating on Google and doesn’t own it.

ALTERNATIVE ROUTES

“I don’t think from a Google perspective that if they miss out, that there’s not other ways to get into local,” Kesler said.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason had the biggest say in this decision as largest shareholder, according to another person familiar with the talks.

He had concerns about the strategic direction the company would take under new management, the person said.

Mason also was concerned about what could happen to merchant relationships and his employees, according to the person.

Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for Google, said the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.

Julie Mossler, a Groupon spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

BUILDING PURCHASE

Separately, Google signed a contract to buy its New York office building at 111 Eighth Avenue for about US$1.8 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement.

The sale probably will close by the end of the year, the person said, who asked not to be named because the deal hasn’t been made public.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, will expand beyond the 51,000m2 it currently occupies in the building, the person said.

Aaron Zamost, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment.

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