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250 Million Reasons to Warm Up to Groupon

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 5, 2016 at 10:07AM

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The group-buying site operator gets an interesting infusion of money it doesn't need from a company whose connections it could use.

Groupon (GRPN -1.42%) sells deal prepaid vouchers, but sometimes it's the dot-com laggard that becomes the deal itself. Groupon stock soared 9% yesterday after a private equity firm with ties to Comcast (CMCSA -0.26%) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) made a $250 million investment in the daily deals provider. 

A move that tacks on nearly $200 million in market cap based on yesterday's 9% gain just because Groupon lined up a buyer for $250 million in convertible senior notes may not make a lot of sense, but the market isn't applauding Groupon's ability to raise money. As out-of-favor as the stock may be, it doesn't really need the money. Groupon's balance sheet is backed by $853.4 million in greenery, offset by a mere $57.7 million in total debt. 

This is more about who is buying into Groupon than the actual money being raised. Atairos was formed last year by former Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis, and most of the $4 billion in initial funding was provided by the cable giant. The press release bills Atairos as an independent private company, but it's essentially a way for Comcast to form strategic alliances and investments with its savvy former executive surveying the market. Comcast is paying $40 million in annual management fees to Atairos, including compensation for Angelakis of $8 million a year.  

This doesn't mean that Comcast wants to swallow Groupon whole. The two entities can benefit just by partnering with one another, and yesterday's press release does point out that Comcast and Groupon will work together to work on strategic partnership opportunities. This makes plenty of sense. Both companies have thick Rolodexes. Groupon's growing base of local merchants paired up with Comcast's vast network of advertisers through NBCUniversal and other properties is a no-brainer. Each company also watches over tens of millions of active customers. There's a goldmine in logical synergies here.    

Image source: Groupon.   

Groupon is showing signs of life this year. The stock is trading 40% higher so far in 2016, but that comes after shedding more than half of its value last year.

The deal won't be entirely painless for Groupon. The $250 million of 3.25% senior notes due 2022 has an initial conversion price of roughly $5.40 per share. It will make the deal dilutive as the stock heads higher, but investors aren't likely to do a lot of complaining if that's the case.

Groupon plans to use $200 million of the money for its expanded buyback plan, so in theory it should more than offset the eventual dilution. It makes this, again, a transaction that's more about the partnership than the implications of the money being raised. 

It's been showing growth in its North American billings lately, and while it finally broke into the black with its first full year of profitability as a public company last year it's expected to return to a small deficit for 2016. That's fine. Groupon had enough money to see itself through years of slinging local experiences on the cheap before this deal, and now it has even more time to get it right. 


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Stocks Mentioned

Groupon, Inc. Stock Quote
Groupon, Inc.
$12.52 (-1.42%) $0.18
Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
$42.02 (-0.26%) $0.11

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