January 4, 2008 / 5:31 AM / 12 years ago

Owner of JDate Web site considers sale: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Spark Networks, home to popular Jewish online dating site JDate.com, is looking for a buyer and talking to leading social networks and Web dating communities, a source familiar with the talks said on Friday.

Spark shares rose more than 14 percent to $5.56 after the New York Times reported earlier in the day that the company could fetch as much as $185 million, based on analysts’ estimates. That would represent a premium of nearly 40 percent to its closing price on Thursday.

The newspaper, citing people close to the auction, said Spark Networks was in early talks with companies including Yahoo Inc’s eHarmony and News Corp’s MySpace, as well as IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns Match.com.

The source confirmed for Reuters that Spark was in talks with several potential bidders.

Officials for Spark, MySpace and IAC could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for eHarmony declined comment

Spark also owns AmericanSingles.com for people looking to a wider audience and HurryDate.com, as well as sites oriented to specific communities like BlackSingles.com and CatholicMingle.com.

Online dating has been an area of consistent growth on the Internet. Match.com has contributed to double-digit earnings growth for IAC’s membership and subscriptions unit.

But Spark Networks posted a 5 percent drop in revenue for the first nine months of 2007 to $49.2 million as its Web sites geared to a wider audience lost ground to larger rivals.

About half of the revenue came from its Jewish Networks division, which rose 5 percent in the period.

Spark reported more than 208,000 total paying subscribers in the third quarter, down from nearly 241,000 in the year earlier period. About 95,000 subscribers belonged to its Jewish Networks unit.

Reporting by Michele Gershberg and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Derek Caney, Toni Reinhold

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