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Last night, AutoTrader filed registration papers with the Securities Exchange Commission to go public. The IPO is slated to start at around $300 million, and will be used to pay off debts, according to AutoTrader.
The company did not indicate how many shares (they will be common stock) or at what price they will be offered. Neither was a date provided, but it should happen before the end of the year.
We had heard rumblings AutoTrader was going to make this move either late in the second quarter or early third quarter of this year. Speculation was that it hoped to ride the coat tails of Facebook's IPO as well as beat a possible TrueCar IPO to the punch.
There shouldn't be any surprise that AutoTrader is going public. The fact that Providence Equity Partners bought 25% of the company in 2010 to help fund AutoTrader's buying spree -- Kelley Blue Book, vAuto, VinSolutions and HomeNet -- from 2010 and 2011 made AutoTrader's strategy clear. It's really the only way Providence and the other majority owners, Cox Enterprises (AutoTrader's parent and founder) and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, can recoup their investments.
Cox had tried to sell AutoTrader in late 2008, but pulled it off the market reportedly because market conditions were so poor due to the credit crisis. It began courting potential partners in early 2010 to help it finance acquisitions to grow to a size where an IPO made sense. And that's where Providence became involved.
AutoTrader's numbers are interesting (reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution).
Its revenue last year was $1.03 billion in 2011, up 38.5% from 2010 -- likely due to its Kelley Blue Book and vAuto acquisitions. Meanwhile, net income was $68.1 million in 2011 also up 38.5% from 2010.
So far in 2012, total revenue was $273.5 million in the first quarter, up 12.5% compared with 2011 first quarter, but a bit troubling is the fact its net income dropped by more than a third to $10.2 million.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC will manage the IPO.
For those of you interested in becoming a part owner of AutoTrader, you can get a preliminary prospectus, when its available, from: Goldman, Sachs & Co., 200 West Street, New York, New York 10282, Attention: Prospectus Department (tel:+1-866-471-2526)(e-mail: email@example.com); or Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, 180 Varick Street, 2nd Floor, New York, New York 10014, Attention: Prospectus Department (tel:+1-866-718-1649)(e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).