Tuesday, December 12, 2006

WhitePages is an attractive target; may expand into social networking space, CEO says

WhitePages.com, a Washington-based directory business, may be an attractive target for a company that wants to enter the “people search” space, CEO Max Bardon said.
WhitePages.com is the largest online people search company, powering directories of Verizon’s SuperPages and YellowPages.com.
WhitePages.com has been approached by various Internet, media and technology companies. “If some day something came along we are not closed to it,” Bardon said. The company does not have a definitive time frame for an exit through sale or IPO," he added.
WhitePages.com would be an attractive target because it owns strong brand names such as 411.net and phonenumber.com, in addition to WhitePages.com. Founded in 2000, the company has a strong localized element with about 22 million unique users a month and has been growing 50% to 100% over the past four years. “For both financial and synergistic reasons we could be attractive to larger companies,” Bardon said.
These potential suitors include traditional media companies, providers of yellow pages services and internet companies such as InterActiveCorp or United Online. “As we get larger this set of potential buyers gets smaller,” he said.
WhitePages is profitable, and received an investment two years ago of about USD 40m from outside equity investors. The company expects to generate revenues between USD 50m and USD 55m in 2006.
WhitePages.com acquired its latest brand name, Address.com in 2006, and if it made more buys would probably look to companies to aid plans to expand its search capabilities to include the social and professional networking spaces, Bardon said. “When I think about places we would consider it would be more tangential spaces,” he said.
WhitePages currently partners with ZoomInfo and could potentially partner with a business such as LinkedIn, but it is still too early to know whether acquiring such companies would make sense. “The jury is still out,” Bardon said.


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