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An IPO You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

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Slowly but surely, the dot-com darlings are starting to step up to the table.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Yelp has selected Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to serve as lead underwriters for its IPO. If everything goes according to plan -- far from a given after Groupon's (Nasdaq: GRPN  ) stumbles and taking into account this iffy market climate -- the popular restaurant review website will go public early next year.

We won't know about Yelp's financials until we begin seeing SEC filings, but sources tell the WSJ that the deal would value the company between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Let's start there in scoring this IPO.

TechCrunch reported two years ago that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) was in talks to acquire Yelp in a deal worth $500 million or more. The buyout never materialized, and the leading search engine recently settled for Zagat in a cheaper transaction instead. Yelp -- like Groupon after passing on a reported $6 billion engagement ring from Google -- will have the last laugh here.

Yelp's proposed valuation would also make the site more valuable than OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN  ) . It would seem odd to have a site consisting almost entirely of user-submitted reviews be worth more than the company collecting hundreds a month from most of the 16,237 restaurants that lean on OpenTable for dining reservation, but just think of the kind of margins that Yelp must be commanding. Unless it blows it all on its marketing team the way that Groupon does, Yelp's financials should be somewhat impressive.

Don't expect to be wowed on the sheer revenue number. The Journal's article names a research firm -- Next Up Research -- that projects $100 million in revenue for Yelp by next year.

Will that be enough to justify a $1 billion to $2 billion market cap? A close fit may be the recently public Zillow (Nasdaq: Z  ) . Wall Street sees the fast-growing real estate website generating $92 million in revenue next year, and it commands a market cap of $900 million.

Perhaps underwriters will try to pair Yelp up with Groupon in the eyes of investors, even though Yelp joined Facebook and OpenTable in recently abandoning their Groupon-like daily deal initiatives.

The more important deal for Yelp will be Angie's List. As another Web 2.0 user-submitted review website, Angie's List is set to go public later this month. If Angie's List is as well-received as Groupon's debut was on Friday, investors may overlook the lack of polish on Yelp if its financials aren't perfect.

Not every course has to be perfect for investors to have a good meal, and Yelp is clearly trying to push its way toward an IPO before the IPO spigot is turned off again.

If you want to follow the ever-changing menu of online dining stocks, track the latest news by adding OpenTable to My Watchlist.

The Motley Fool owns shares of OpenTable and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Zillow, Google, and OpenTable. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2011, at 4:13 PM, RealNegotiator wrote:

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