The comparison shopping engines sector is going through a lot of rethink after a period of M&A: Scripps (NYSE: SSP) is rethinking Shopzilla and uSwitch, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is rethinking Kelkoo, CNET (NSDQ: CNET) is rethinking MySimon, and in UK, Daily Mail General Trust (LSE: DMGT) closed down SimplySwitch, the energy comparison site. Now, Experian, the big credit-checking firm, has put up PriceGrabber for sale after “lots of interest from private-equity and listed companies,” the company said. Experian has appointed Allen & Co. for the sale talks, though the company stresses they are under no major pressure to sell.
Experian bought it in 2005 for about $485 million, and hopes to get more than that, which will be tough for sure. Since 2005. Experian has bought other interactive businesses like Lowermybills.com, ClassesUSA.com and analytics firm Hitwise. Experian’s interactive division recorded interim revenues of $376 million and made an operating profit of $60 million, reports FT. Interim results showed an organic rise in sales at the interactive unit to $388 million on the back of deals for co-branded partnerships with AOL (NYSE: TWX) Shopping and CNET.
As to who will be interested, Christian Koefoed-Nielsen, analyst at Panmure Gordon, suggested that AOL, MSN or Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) might be interested in PriceGrabber, as the site did pricing for them. “PriceGrabber has grown in customer numbers and profits under Experian, which paid 27 to 28 times earnings when they acquired it. They are not likely to get that when they sell it,” he said.