Is $15 billion for Groupon a Good Deal?

The Chicago-based site has plans to move forward on IPO

By Lisa Balde and Barbara Hernandez
|  Friday, Jan 14, 2011  |  Updated 3:41 PM CDT
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Forget Google. A certain local deals website is doing just fine positioning itself for more growth.

Groupon Inc. plans to meet with bankers about moving forward on an initial public offering that could value the company at $15 billion, Crain's Chicago reports.

The Chicago-based company, which recently turned down a $6 million buy-out offer from Google, announced Monday it raised $950-million in financing.

The bankers have thrown that $15 billion number around, according to yet another unnamed source, and it's been whetting investor appetites and so much that Groupon is becoming the biggest and most hotly anticipated IPO since Google debuted in 2004.

“It’s smart to strike while the iron is hot, and they’re the most visible and fastest-growing player in their market,” Greg Sterling, founder of the research firm Sterling Market Intelligence, told Dealbook. “To wait a year would inject a level of uncertainty for the proposition of going public.”

Of course it would, because waiting is a sensible approach. But like some have already reported, this may be more about Groupon trying to be worth as much as possible before its market share becomes depleted by copycat sites, such as Townhog and LivingSocial. And it's also about Wall Street smelling an investor frenzy, especially when sure-thing Facebook is still playing coy about an IPO. A Groupon IPO will be sold by an inflated view of tech stocks, buoyed by Facebook's $50 billion valuation and Groupon's $15 billion.

But are they really worth that? That's the real question. While I might agree with Facebook having some inherent value, I'm thinking a discount site that can easily be copied isn't worth all that much -- especially when they have little or no intellectual property or patents.

The IPO is expected sometime this spring. The company's IPO could be $1 billion to $1.5 billion, CNBC reports. 

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