Rocket Internet Prices $2 Billion German IPO at Top End of Range

Rocket Internet AG is set to complete Germany’s biggest initial public offering since 2007, pricing the 1.6 billion-euro ($2 billion) sale at the top end of its range and turning founders Samwer brothers into billionaires.

The e-commerce investor known for replicating businesses from Groupon Inc. to Airbnb Inc. sold new stock at 42.50 euros apiece, the Berlin-based company said yesterday. The amount of proceeds assume the exercise of an over-allotment option that would give Rocket a market value of about 6.7 billion euros. The shares begin trading on the Frankfurt exchange today.

The transaction, coming on the heels of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Zalando SE -- another company backed by Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer -- shows investor demand for e-commerce stocks has arrived in Europe. The brothers began their careers as Internet entrepreneurs in 1999 by cloning EBay Inc.’s business for the German market and subsequently selling it to the U.S. company.

“Oliver is excellent in giving investors the feeling that he and his brothers understand the digital business,” Joel Kaczmarek, author of Samwer biography “The Godfathers of the Internet,” said in an e-mail. “His vision of conquering the different developing Internet markets seems actually very plausible and triggers the interests of investors that do not want to miss out on those opportunities.”

Doubling Target

Demand for the stock outstripped supply by more than 10 times, Rocket said. Last week, the company almost doubled its target for proceeds and then advanced the date of its listing after winning commitments to buy shares from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Scotland’s Baillie Gifford & Co.

Still, at the end of its Frankfurt debut yesterday, Zalando gave up all of its 14 percent gains, valuing the online apparel retailer at 5.3 billion euros. Alibaba rose 38 percent in its trading debut in New York last month after what was the largest IPO of all time.

Rocket’s sale proceeds, including the over-allotment option, would exceed the 1.45 billion euros from phone company Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG’s 2012 IPO, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Auto supplier Tognum AG raised 2 billion euros in 2007.

The revenue will allow Chief Executive Officer Oliver Samwer to push Rocket deeper into markets such as Latin America and Asia. Samwer said last month online and mobile commerce have only started to gain steam since 2007 in the emerging markets its companies target.

EHarmony, Pinterest

The brothers have also duplicated sites such as those of EHarmony Inc. and Pinterest Inc. Rocket typically starts the companies, hires staff and provides initial marketing, design and management know-how.

Ten Rocket e-commerce startups for which shareholder Investment AB Kinnevik disclosed earnings -- including Lamoda, Dafiti and Westwing -- had an aggregate operating loss of 432 million euros last year on sales of 743 million euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The stake of Rocket’s controlling shareholder, the Samwer brothers’ Global Founders Fund, would fall to 39.8 percent from 52 percent, assuming the over-allotment option is fully exercised.

Companies raised $64.3 billion in the third quarter, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Tele Columbus AG, Germany’s third-largest cable operator, this week announced plans to raise at least 300 million euros in an IPO.

Berenberg Bank, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley arranged Rocket’s stock sale. Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG are joint bookrunners.

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