UPDATE 4-Groupon sells 500 percent more holiday deals

Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:04pm EST

* Groupon sells more than 650,000 holiday deals-CEO

* Post-IPO quiet period ends for daily deal company

* LivingSocial may sell 350,000 national holiday deals

* Groupon CFO says international growth still strong

* Shares rise 9.3 percent

By Alistair Barr and Phil Wahba

Nov 30 (Reuters) - Groupon Inc's shares rose more than 9 percent on Wednesday after Chief Executive Andrew Mason emerged from the company's post-IPO quiet period to share holiday sales numbers.

Groupon sold more than 650,000 holiday deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an increase of 500 percent compared with last year, Mason said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Shares of the largest daily-deal company have been slammed in recent weeks on concern about increased competition. The stock has fallen by nearly half since hitting a high of $31.14 on its Nov. 4 market debut.

Groupon shares rose 9.3 percent to close at $17.50 on Nasdaq, but were still below the $20 IPO price.

LivingSocial, which is Groupon's closest rival and partly owned by Amazon.com Inc , offered more than 20 deals with national merchants for Black Friday shopping.

As of Tuesday afternoon, LivingSocial was on course to sell 325,000 to 350,000 national holiday deals, LivingSocial said on Wednesday.

Companies and executives are restricted from speaking publicly in the first weeks after an IPO, but Mason said on Wednesday that the quiet period for Groupon was over.

"Our IPO process was a wild ride, but we're excited to get back to business and are focused squarely on the future," Mason wrote. "We're back to communicating like a normal company again ... well, as normal as we can muster at Groupon."

INTERNATIONAL GROWTH

The CEO and the Groupon Chief Financial Officer Jason Child spoke at a Credit Suisse technology conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, which was webcast on Wednesday afternoon.

Child said the company's international business is still growing strongly, despite turmoil in Europe.

Groupon gets more than half its revenue overseas and the European sovereign debt crisis had sparked concern that demand for the company's deals may wane in that region.

Groupon's Gaopeng joint venture in China, owned with Tencent , faced problems earlier this year and some employees were let go.

Mason said on Wednesday that Gaopeng is being given autonomy to operate under a different strategy than the rest of Groupon because China's local commerce market is so different.

Most people in China still browse the Internet and use search engines to get information, while Groupon's main expertise is communicating via email, Mason explained.

"We're patiently supporting the team," Mason added.

MARKETING SPENDING

Child also told investors to expect marketing spending to drive revenue growth, rather than subscriber growth, in the future.

Groupon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars attracting subscribers and this strategy was criticized during the IPO process.

Groupon's marketing spending reached an annual rate of about $700 million during the third quarter and Child said that will remain at similar levels in the future.

However, Groupon is switching focus from attracting new subscribers to encouraging more purchases by existing subscribers and customers, he said.

"You will start to see us look more like an e-commerce company with marketing spending that more directly corresponds to revenue growth," Child said.

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