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How Groupon Gets a $6 Billion Valuation

Google is reportedly interested in buying Groupon for $6 billion. That rumored number is huge, to say the least, twice any of Google's other acquisitions. It's also twice the $3 billion valuation at which Groupon's been raising funding. So how does this deal-a-day company with 30 million registered users get to a $6 billion valuation? It's possible, according to Lou Kerner, Wedbush Securities Social Media analyst.

Groupon.com
Source: groupon.com
Groupon.com

Groupon's revenue is about $50 million a month - let's say it generates $500 million in revenue this year. It grew 890 percent from September 2009 to September 2010. Let's say its growth slows to 100 percent a year, so it hits $2 billion ion revenue by 2012.

Then there's the question of margins and revenue multiples.

Google trades at a six times revenue multiple. If Groupon trades at half of that - a three times revenue multiple - that would be a $6 billion valuation in 2012. Is a three times revenue multiple reasonable? Yes, to the extent that Groupon is growing much faster than Google. The question - margins. Can Groupon get close to Google's margins?

There are a lot of "ifs." For one thing, is Groupon's estimated $50 million in monthly revenue the company's gross - the amount consumers spend on all those coupons? That's an amount Groupon splits with the small businesses offering their services. Or, is that net revenue to Groupon, once its partner companies have already gotten their cut?

But there's potential upside if Google buys Groupon: it could make the site more valuable by driving customers and automating its processes. The question: how much more valuable would Groupon be if owned by Google?

One potential comparison is Travelzoo - it generates some of its revenue from deals like Groupon's. Travelzoo is smaller - it's on track for about $120 million in revenue this year. Today the similarity to Groupon sent its stock soaring-- up over 10 percent today. Still, its market cap is just $707 million. If Groupon's revenue is four times the size, that gets Travelzoo to a $4.95 billion valuation.

What's the market saying? SecondMarket's buy-side interest in Groupon surged 63 percent in the third quarter to a value of $1.35 billion. Interest has grown another 10 percent in the past two months, but safe to say the valuation is less than the numbers Google is reportedly interested in paying.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.