Reeeejected: Groupon Turns Google Down

In what will turn out to be either a brilliant move or one helluva missed opportunity, Groupon turned down Google’s rumored $6 billion acquisition offer.

Groupon for one, please.

For $6 billion, this site would be sold in a nanosecond (possibly with a kidney included), but Groupon looked the multi-billion dollar offer in the face and decided to walk away. Chicago Breaking Business {via TechCrunch} reports that two sources close to the deal have confirmed that Groupon has decided to stay independent, possibly in advance of a IPO filing, though a decision on that won’t come until 2011.

How could anyone possibly walk away from $6 billion? According to Kara Swisher at AllThingsD, the $500 million annual revenues that everyone’s been tossing around (including us) are actually closer to $2 billion. While that figure doesn’t take into consideration what Groupon pays out to merchants, most estimates have Groupon taking a 50% cut of each deal that passes through its site, which means the company could be seeing $1 billion from the deals that pass through their system. Considering this is still in a span of just 2 years, heading for an IPO might make more sense. With their own focus on acquisitions – of both smaller companies outside the US and new customers – Groupon hasn’t been resting on their first to market status to grow, and it’s obviously working out amazingly well. If they hit $3 billion in revenue next year, an IPO could easily see the company valued at much more than the $6 billion Google offered.

Only time will tell if this is the right move: when Facebook turned down a $2 billion offer from Yahoo!, many observers who’d seen Friendster’s rise and fall thought it was a risky move. Today the company is valued somewhere close to $50 billion and it looks like the right bet. As successful as they’ve been, it’s still impossible to know for sure if Facebook will continue to hold the number one social network spot that MySpace once held, and officially conceded. For Groupon, the loudest criticisms of their multi-billion dollar valuation have been over the fact that the model can be easily duplicated, and that there’s not much that would keep someone loyal to Groupon exclusively.

While they may not be the only daily deal site that customers keep up with, Groupon is quickly turning the space into a winner take most market and sometimes that’s enough to build a defensible business on. The momentum Groupon has going for them at the moment may be a challenge to sustain, but it would be an even tougher battle for competing companies to overtake them.

Meanwhile, this puts Google back to square one. Amazon recently offered competitor LivingSocial $175 million, BuyWithMe is the next largest competitor, but not in enough cities for Google to spend money on an acquisition rather than trying to build its own product and sales force. Will we see Google Deals/Goopons making their way into local listings? Google branded products have been hit (Maps, Earthview, Gmail, News) and miss (Video, Buzz, Wave, Froogle, Base) so it’s difficult to say how they’ll move forward, but we can’t see them walking away from the  daily deal model after what was on the table.

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