Is Groupon ready for its IPO close-up?
This morning's New York Times' DealBook reports that the leading social coupon site is wrapping up a beefy round of financing as it works its way toward eventually going public.
By this time next year, it would be a shock if Groupon isn't public. It's not as if the fast-growing site actually needs the money. The company is apparently making a ton of money with its lucrative model, offering discounted city-specific deals where it pockets as much as half of the proceeds.
There are a few other reasons why Groupon should go public, even if it's already flush with cash.
1. Show the world you're over Google
It may have been shocking to see Groupon and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) fail to hook up in what was reportedly a $6 billion buyout deal, but Groupon had its reasons.
Google is struggling to get its $700 million deal for ITA Software to clear antitrust hurdles. Did a $6 billion deal that would combine the world's largest advertiser with the undisputed leader in social coupons really stand a chance?
Groupon could have probably settled for less elsewhere. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) , or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) could have quickly closed on a deal for far less than $6 billion, but it would have been embarrassing.
Even if an IPO values the company at less than $6 billion, it will get there -- and then some -- if Groupon's growth trajectory continues. Going public is the one way to save face.
2. Going public means nearly free brand publicity
It shouldn't be a surprise to find consumer-facing websites gain traffic after going public. It's a brand awareness thing. OpenTable's (Nasdaq: OPEN ) growth accelerated after last year's IPO, as curious foodies and intrigued eateries checked out the online reservations specialist.
There are filing costs and other expenses related to being a public company, so there is no free lunch. However, it will be a way for Groupon to distance itself from the competition.
3. Groupon may want to go public before LivingSocial or Facebook
Don't let anyone tell you that this isn't a race.
Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) just invested $175 million in distant silver medalist LivingSocial. Does Groupon want to see LivingSocial be the first one to go public, gaining the brand awareness edge?
On the other side of the spectrum, there's a pretty good chance that Facebook finally goes public in 2011. Does Groupon want to risk a lukewarm reception to the leading social networking site, a move that would likely nix interest in a Groupon deal? Does Groupon want to go public in Facebook's shadow, even if Mark Zuckerberg's huge site is successful?
Why wait for Twitter or Facebook? Why chance LivingSocial or BuyWithMe leapfrogging Groupon by going public?
The time is now. Like any deal on Groupon, the clock is ticking on the decision-making window. Have a nice IPO, Groupon.
Have you ever used Groupon or a Groupon-esque site for a deal? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.