Groupon Sets Trend for Acquisitions: A Risky Business

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Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) is trying to distance itself further and further from only being a website with daily deals. Now the company has proven that it is willing and able to make acquisitions to help along those lines. The acquisition of ideeli looks a lot more like a daily deal consolidation more than any major sea change for Groupon.

The deal was shown to be for $43M in cash to acquire the online flash fashion retailer. ideeli claims to be one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, with over 6 million members and more than 1,000 brand partners.

Sterne Agee called the deal a small one, but also said that its should be positive for Groupon. The analyst showed that this will help Groupon gain access to a new category, with sales growth up front and adding earnings over time. The analyst even pointed out that ideeli generated billings or revenues of $115M and adjusted EBITDA loss of $27M for the 12-month period ended Feb 2, 2013. The firm’s Arvind Bhatia maintained his Buy rating on Groupon, but the $12.00 price target is only a tad above the $11.38 share price.

Another observance was that more than half of ideeli’s revenue comes from womens fashion apparel and the rest from accessories and home decor. Reports were out that it had received $30 million in additional funding in 2013 with total funding to date of about $100 million.

Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia said, “While ideeli’s last reported revenue was $115M, past media comments from ideeli’s management suggest, at one point, they were trying to build a company that could generate $1B in revenue.”

It seems that Wall Street considers this the same way that 24/7 Wall St. does: a flash sale deal provider is another daily deals provider. Shares were down 3.3% at $11.18 on almost 10 million shares traded as of 1:20 PM EST.

The $43 million size is also too small on the surface to move the needle. After all, Groupon’s market cap is a whopping $7.5 billion. The Thomson Reuters consensus estimates also signal that Groupon is expected to grow sales from about $2.52 billion in 2013 up to about $2.9 billion in 2014. Even if all those bookings somehow get counted as revenue, this just seems too small to be much of a boost on the surface.

Investors want Groupon to be better than just daily deals and better than just flash sales. That business comes and goes, and it seems real to think that it could be a big boom and bust cycle for any player depending solely upon that. Maybe consolidating peers and competitors is currently what Groupon thinks is best to do, but we would warn that there are truly zero barriers to entry for any “want to be” competitors.

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