* Viadeo is online network for job seekers
* First large tech IPO in Paris since 2006
* Europe's IPO market off to hot start in Q1
By Leila Abboud
PARIS, May 28 French start-up Viadeo, the
biggest online network for job seekers in France and China,
plans to float its shares in Paris in a test of whether European
investors flock to growing Internet players like their U.S. and
The company, which competes with market leader LinkedIn Corp
and Germany's Xing among others, did not say
in a regulatory filing on Wednesday how much money it aimed to
raise, nor did it give a specific calendar for the initial
public offering (IPO).
Its listing will be the first large technology IPO in Paris
since 2006 when real estate listing group SeLoger sold its
shares. Other promising French start-ups such as web advertising
specialist Criteo chose to list in New York where
valuations tend to be higher because investors are used to
evaluating fast-growing Internet companies.
Viadeo is planning to float as Europe's IPO market makes its
hottest start since 2000.
Global IPOs almost doubled in value in the first quarter of
2014 from the same period a year earlier, according to Thomson
Reuters data, while the value of European IPOs soared 191
percent to hit $15.2 billion.
Viadeo's biggest markets are France, China, Russia, and
French-speaking Africa. The firm has recruited 60 million users
since it was founded in 2004 by current chief executive Dan
Serfaty and strategy chief Thierry Lunati.
Sefraty told newspaper Le Figaro in an interview that the
proceeds from the IPO would help the company "increase Viadeo's
advantage in China and strengthen its marketing team to sell
more products to recruiters".
With a business model similar to LinkedIn, Viadeo does not
charge users for basic access to its website, but offers premium
services to job seekers who pay a monthly fee. It also earns
revenue by charging job recruiters to post job offers and search
Viadeo posted sales up 11 percent to 30.9 million euros
($42.07 million) last year, and an operating loss of 14.5
million euros because of big investments in the business,
according to the document filed with the AMF market regulator.
Some 95 percent of its revenue comes from France where it
has 9 million members, since most of its 20 million Chinese
subscribers do not pay fees. China, although growing rapidly,
generated only 841,000 euros in sales last year.
About half of Viadeo's sales come from subscriptions, 20
percent from selling advertisements on the site, and 30 percent
from services offered to corporate recruiters.
California-based LinkedIn is a giant compared to Viadeo. Its
membership rose 8.3 percent to 300 million worldwide from 277
million at the end of the fourth quarter, and it is targeting
annual sales of $2.06 billion to $2.08 billion
Germany's Xing with 14 million members is more closely
comparable to Viadeo. Xing had 84 million euros in sales last
year on operating profit of 22.8 million euros.
Xing is valued at roughly 6 times sales and LinkedIn at 9
times sales. If Viadeo trades in these ranges, it could reach a
valuation of 180 million to 200 million euros.
($1 = 0.7345 Euros)
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)