German Web Portal Operator Unister Said to Plan Sale

Unister Holding GmbH, a German operator of Internet portals for travel and finance products, hired Jefferies Group LLC to find a buyer, according to people familiar with the process.

The company, known for hiring celebrities including soccer star Michael Ballack to woo users to websites such as holiday-booking service, may be valued at as much as 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion), said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. Unister will probably attract interest primarily from private-equity firms, the people said.

Internet portals with large consumer audiences are increasingly attractive to buyers as online advertising becomes more sophisticated and more transactions are completed on the Web. Also working with Jefferies, Deutsche Telekom AG agreed in November to sell Scout24 Holding GmbH, a real-estate and dating portal, to Hellman & Friedman LLC for about 1.5 billion euros.

Konstantin Korosides, a Unister spokesman, and Samantha Randall, a spokeswoman for Jefferies, declined to comment.

Based in Leipzig, Unister was founded in 2002 by college dropout Thomas Wagner. The 35-year-old Wagner still owns the business, which is headed by Chief Executive Officer Peter Zimmermann and has about 1,800 employees.