Web dating company plans 342-mn-euro Paris float

CIOL Bureau
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PARIS: Online dating company Meetic is preparing to cash in on strong investor appetite for Internet stocks in a Paris flotation that could value it at up to 341.7 million euros ($411.5 million).


Some potential investors said Meetic's indicative price range of 19.20 euros to 22.30 euros a share, published in its prospectus on Tuesday, meant the stock looked expensive but that would not discourage buyers.

At the price mid-point, Meetic is valued at seven times 2005 annual sales and 35 times 2005 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBTIDA), which Anthony Penel, a fund manager at Ofivalmo, a French investment firm, said was high, even for a company with an operating margin of about 20 percent.

Nevertheless, he predicted, "The deal will be successful for sure, and the stock should enjoy a nice ride."


Launched four years ago, Meetic operates in 13 countries and nine languages.

Its market debut comes after French online retailer Rue Du Commerce priced its shares at the top of the range last week amid unusually high demand from retail and institutional investors.

Meetic's flotation is expected to be followed by that of Eutelsat, the world's third-largest satellite operator.

Meetic made a net profit of 2.7 million euros on sales of 21.3 million euros in 2004.

"In the business of online dating, Meetic will be one of the only companies listed in Europe, and it is the biggest Internet-based meeting place in France," Penel said.


Another fund manager predicted Meetic shares would prove popular with the return of the "good old days of Internet" stocks.

Meetic said it would put on the market 570,387 existing shares, or 4.55 percent of existing equity, and issue up to 3.93 million new shares, including a green-shoe allotment of extra shares.

The shares will be priced on Oct. 12, with first dealings on Oct. 13. The company is controlled by management -- 57.63 percent is owned by chief executive and founder Marc Simoncini -- while 22.3 percent belongs to institutional investors and investment firms.

Up to 27.4 percent of the enlarged capital will be floated if extra shares under the green-shoe allotment are sold.

The flotation is lead-managed by Societe Generale. JP Morgan Cazenove is acting as associated lead manager, while Lazard-IXIS is co-lead manager. Avenir Finance Corporate acted as adviser to the company on the deal.