September 18, 2013 / 10:43 AM / 4 years ago

French ad firm Criteo files for $190 million U.S. IPO

PARIS (Reuters) - French online advertising firm Criteo aims to raise up to $190 million in a listing in the United States in the coming weeks, testing investor appetite for technology start-ups ahead of bigger debuts such as social network Twitter.

The company, which uses tracking technology to target ads at consumers surfing the web, filed the preliminary prospectus for its initial public offering to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. (link.reuters.com/qax23v)

No details were given on how many American Depositary Shares Criteo aims to sell or their expected price on the Nasdaq. JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank Securities and Jefferies are the lead underwriters for the issue.

Criteo's move comes as investors pin their hopes that Twitter will reignite technology IPOs, dampened by Facebook's (FB.O) botched listing in May 2012.

There have been 118 IPOs in the United States this year, raising $27.9 billion, a 9 percent drop from the same period a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Criteo, which will trade under the symbol "CRTO", was founded in 2005 in Paris and became a darling in the online advertising sector by boosting the rate at which Internet surfers click on display advertising.

Criteo's technology focuses on "re-targeting" - catching users who have visited a shopping website without buying anything, and then showing the ads for similar items on other sites in order to tempt them back.

Criteo's customers, including travel website Expedia, computer maker Lenovo and retailer Macy's, pay the start-up only when a web surfer actually clicks on the marketing message they were shown.

It is one of a slew of companies - from Google to Facebook - that is benefiting as major advertisers shift spending from television and print outlets to the Internet.

Through 2015, two-thirds of the growth in total advertising expenditures will be from the Internet, according to forecaster Zenith Optimedia. Some 24 percent of global ad spend will be online by 2015, compared with 40 percent on TV and 22 percent in newspapers and magazines.

Criteo, which has expanded quickly into 37 countries, has roughly doubled its revenues every year since 2010 to reach 271.9 million euros in 2012, according to the SEC filing.

It made a profit of 800,000 euros last year but swung to a loss of 4.9 million in the first six months of 2013 on increased investments.

Criteo said proceeds from the IPO would be used for general corporate purposes, including sales and marketing, product development and the acquisition and development of technologies.

A successful IPO could generate a handsome payback for venture capital firms which have ploughed some $64 million into Criteo.

Geneva-based Index Ventures is the largest shareholder with a 23 percent stake. Others include Bessemer Venture Partners and Elaia Partners.

The final size of the IPO could be different than the $190 million in the initial filing, Criteo said. The amount of money a company says it plans to raise in its first IPO filings is used to calculate registration fees.

Additional reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore and Kylie MacLellan in London; Editing by David Cowell

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