The UK’s leading online dating agency DatingDirect.com and its sister company Chemistry are to be sold to the European sector leader Meetic in a deal worth £27.3 million.
The Birmingham office of Clearwater Corporate Finance, advised by Midlands’ solicitors HBJ Gateley Wareing, is acting as matchmaker for the deal, after being appointed by DatingDirect.com’s shareholders to advise them on their strategic options. The transaction should be completed in January, once the remaining conditions have been fulfilled.
Founded in 1999 by the current owners Darren Richards and Andrew Pike, Birmingham-based DatingDirect.com has experienced rapid growth and now has over 4.5 million members, with nearly 3.5 million of them in the UK. In 2004 the company was ranked number 35 in the Sunday Times/Microsoft Tech Track 100 fastest growing technology companies. Since then, it has continued to grow with estimated revenue for 2006 reaching £11 million this year.
DatingDirect.com’s website enables users to search for, and then contact potential dates and offers a range of features including text message alerts and ‘Cupid mail’. Chemistry, its sister company organises live singles events such as speed dating. In addition, DatingDirect provides a third party dating service to almost 20 other organisations, including broadcaster Channel Four, internet service provider AOL, radio station Heart FM and multi-media service provider ntl.
Quoted company Meetic, based in Boulogne, France, has, since its launch in 2001, established itself as Europe’s leading online dating service with a well recognised brand and more than 25.4 million registered members. Meetic offers its service in 12 different languages across 14 European countries together with China and Brazil. The acquisition of DatingDirect.com will provide Meetic with an entry to the UK market and will strengthen its dominant position in the European market.
DatingDirect.com’s chief executive Darren Richards said: “This is an exciting time in the online dating market, and we are pleased that DatingDirect.com is about to join forces with Europe’s leading online dating business. We are confident that DatingDirect.com will continue to go from strength to strength under the ownership of Meetic, who are able to provide the experience and resources required to consolidate DatingDirect’s position as market leader”.
Mark Simoncini, chief executive of Meetic added “The UK was clearly a key country in Meetic’s strategy to strengthen its European leadership. The forthcoming acquisition of DatingDirect will enable us to play a major role in the British market, one of the most expensive in the world in terms of media purchasing, without having to launch a major marketing campaign for a new brand.
“Due to this acquisition, in less than five years we will have conquered the number one position in most of the international markets in which we operate. The optimisation of our European traffic and the signing of new distribution contracts, combined with the new offers that will be deployed simultaneously with the new 2.0 version of Meetic, should enable us to increase, from 2007, our sources of revenue and hence increase our investment possibilities in new countries or on new continents where we do not yet have a presence.”
Partner Jon Hustler of Clearwater Corporate Finance has been leading a team that includes director Gareth Iley and manager Katie Wood. Legal advice to the team is being provided by Simon Gill and Ben Hewitson of HBJ Gateley Wareing in Birmingham.
Hustler said: “DatingDirect has achieved its position as the UK market leader by having an easy to use website that is carefully policed and cleverly promoted through a focused advertising and PR strategy.
“The third party white label services have not only increased revenue, but also helped to attract additional members which in turn has boosted the site’s success as the more members, the greater chance of meeting the right person in the right geographical area.
“This is a high growth market and there is massive potential to increase revenue further through added value premium services. The acquisition will provide Meetic with a very strong foothold in the UK market and provide its existing operation with a greater critical mass”.