Comcast-Backed Firm Makes $250 Million Investment in Groupon

  • Companies to seek ties on local commerce, advertising
  • Groupon has struggled since its IPO to spur growth and profits

A new firm backed by Comcast Corp. has invested $250 million with online marketplace Groupon Inc., creating a partnership that could bolster the cable company’s local advertising business.

The companies will work together to “identify and implement potential strategic partnership opportunities,” according to a statement Monday. Groupon will use the proceeds to repurchase its shares, which rose as much as 16 percent.

“Groupon is an established leader in connecting customers with local businesses,” Neil Smit, chief executive officer of Comcast Cable, said in the statement. “The potential in combining Groupon’s local expertise with Comcast’s vast subscriber and advertiser network is something we look forward to closely exploring together.”

The partnership brings together the nation’s largest cable operator and an early Internet darling that’s attempting to transform itself into a broader online marketplace. For Comcast, the investment could help drive growth as the pay-TV industry undergoes massive change driven by more video programming being offered through online services like Netflix. Recently, Comcast started selling video and Internet service through Amazon.com.

Comcast owns a local advertising division called Comcast Spotlight that could benefit from working with Groupon, which began by offering daily discounts for local businesses. The company gets a portion of scheduled advertising time on cable-TV networks that it sells to local, regional and national advertisers. Comcast’s local advertising business generated $2.3 billion in revenue last year, a 3 percent decline from the year earlier.

Last year, Comcast created a new company with Chief Financial Officer Michael J. Angelakis to focus on investments in growth businesses around the world. As part of the investment in Groupon, Angelakis will join Groupon’s board.

Angelakis’ firm, called Atairos, has capital commitments of about $4.1 billion, with $4 billion coming from Philadelphia-based Comcast. Angelakis will invest at least $40 million personally. The new company has an exclusive, 10-year partnership with Comcast as its sole outside investor.

Groupon will use the investment for general corporate purposes, including repurchasing stock. Its board also approved a $200 million increase to its existing share-repurchase program and extended it through April 2018.

Shares of Groupon rose as much as 16 percent to $4.53 in New York Monday, and were trading at $4.32 at 1 p.m. The stock had climbed 28 percent through Friday’s close. Comcast was little changed at $61.43.

Struggling since its IPO to spur growth and profits, Groupon replaced CEO Eric Lefkofsky in November. New Chief Executive Rich Williams has increased the marketing budget to revive and reinvent the company.

The stock surged earlier this year after Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. bought 33 million shares of Groupon, making it the fourth-largest shareholder in the company. The Chinese e-commerce giant owned 5.6 percent of Chicago-based Groupon as of Dec. 31, according to a regulatory filing.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE