Monday, March 17, 2008

AOL / BEBO deal analysis... very interesting data

The most interesting tidbits about the AOL-Bebo deal are as follows:
Bebo’s revenues for FY2006 were $7 million with $3 million in EBITDA. In FY2007, the financial results were approximately $20 million in revenues and $5 million in EBITDA. Using 2007 results, that means Time Warner’s AOL paid a handsome 42.5 times revenues and an incredible 160 times EBITDA.
Projecting outward, our best guess by Bebo execs would have the Company around $50 million in revenue and $10 million in EBITDA in FY 2008; $117 million in revenue and $48 million in revenue in FY 2009 and $193 million in revenue and $92 million in EBITDA in FY 2010.
As a brief overview, Bebo was launched in July 2005 and has steadily risen to become one of the world’s most popular social networking sites. Users can create profiles on the site for free, stay connected with friends, watch videos, and listen to music. In early 2008 Bebo had over 34 million registered users and 7 billion monthly page views.
Bebo’s founders have extensive experience in online social networking, having been involved in the founding and building of such companies as Birthday Alarm, Ringo, and Friendster.
Bebo is officially the largest social networking site in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand, and is the third largest social networking site in the US behind only MySpace and Facebook.
Recent Comscore data says Bebo has 22 million unique visitors and 11 billion page views; AOL said Bebo users spend an average of 40 minutes a day on the site in a press briefing. The company claims 40 million users.
The sale will represent more than a 9x cash return for Balderton Capital, which provided Bebo with $15 million in Series A funding less than two years ago. That round gave Balderton a 15.7% ownership position (approx. $95m post-money valuation), which would work out to around a $133 million paycheck from AOL. But Balderton actually gets approximately $140 million, due to some additional provisions and entitlements contained in the investment agreement.
Bebo’s husband-wife founding team of Michael and Xochi Birch won’t be sticking around AOL for very long (if at all).
Bebo plans to soon expand into several non-English-speaking European markets
Bebo had been in the market for new funding to support acquisitions, particularly in the contextual and behavioral search markets. But that ended once acquisition offers began coming in. No comment on earlier reports that Yahoo was an interested suitor (which is now 0-for-2 on such efforts).

AOL To Acquire Global Social Media Network Bebo

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Posted: March 13, 2008

Filed Under: International, Products, Corporate

NEW YORK, NY, March 13, 2008 – AOL announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Bebo (, a leading global social media network. Together with its AIM and ICQ personal communications network, the acquisition will give AOL a premier position in the fast growing world of social media with a network of approximately 80 million unique users.

With a total membership of more than 40 million worldwide, Bebo is a global social media network which combines community, self-expression and entertainment to enable its users to consume, create, discover and share content. Bebo is one of the leading social networks in the UK, and is ranked number one in Ireland and New Zealand, and number three in the U.S. Its users are heavily engaged and view an average of 78 pages per usage day. Bebo has approximately 100 employees operating in offices in the UK, San Francisco and Austin, TX.

The deal comes just one week after AOL’s launch of Open AIM 2.0, an initiative that allows the developer community greater freedom to access the AIM network and integrate AIM into its sites and applications, and the announcement by Apple of a downloadable AIM application for the iPhone.

Under the terms of the agreement, AOL will acquire Bebo for $850 million in cash.

“Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL’s personal communications network and puts us in a leading position in social media,” said Randy Falco, Chairman and CEO, AOL. “What drew us to Bebo was its substantial and fast-growing worldwide user-base, its vision of a truly social web, and the monetization opportunities that leverage Platform-A across our combined global audience. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers.”

“AOL understands the shifting dynamics of the Web and has clearly demonstrated its commitment to leveraging the ever-increasing power of social networks,” said Bebo President, Joanna Shields. “With one and the same vision in this area, it was a natural progression for Bebo to join AOL, and we look forward to working together to continue to expand the online social experience globally.”

“Bebo’s dynamic management team recognizes that the Internet is less about destination and more about connecting people, culture and lifestyles,” said Ron Grant, President and COO, AOL. “This acquisition supports our key objectives – accelerating the growth, engagement and monetization of one of the world’s most engaged online communities.”

Upon closing the transaction, current President Joanna Shields will continue to run Bebo and will report to Ron Grant.

Analyst eMarketer predicts that by 2011, $4.1 billion will be spent worldwide for social network advertising – a dramatic increase from the $480 million spent in 2006. In 2008 alone, global ad spend in the social networking arena is expected to increase 75% year over year, amounting to $2.1 billion (eMarketer, Social Network Marketing: Ad Spending and Usage, December 2007).

In recent months, AOL has moved aggressively to bolster its position in areas critical to its emergence as a leading advertising-supported Web media and marketing company. Building on its number one position in third party display with, AOL has spent nearly $1 billion on online advertising acquisitions, including market leaders like ADTECH,, Lightningcast, Quigo, TACODA and Third Screen Media to create Platform-A. Platform-A is the top display ad serving network focused on helping marketers build brands that perform online.* In Web content, AOL’s revitalized network of sites has experienced five months of consecutive page view growth and key categories like Music, Television, Moviefone, TMZ, Money & Finance, News, Living and Body are all in the top four in their respective categories.

As part of its international growth plans, AOL has launched 17 international web sites over the last year and has plans to expand to 30 countries outside the U.S. by the end of 2008. In addition, AOL teamed up with HP last September to include localized versions of the portal and other AOL services as the default setting on HP computers shipped in the United States and around the world. Bebo, which has announced plans to launch in five countries this year, will be featured prominently in AOL’s international expansion efforts after the deal is closed.

Since its inception, Bebo has established a radical new vision for online media and engagement marketing, combining community, self-expression and entertainment, enabling its members to consume, create, discover, curate and share digital content in entirely new ways. Bebo global users have high engagement levels spending an average of 33 minutes a day on the site. Its groundbreaking Open Media platform ushered in a new way for Bebo users to experience content online, while giving global media companies like MTV, CBS, BBC and more than 400 others, a new way to promote, distribute and monetize their programming. "Engagement Marketing," is Bebo’s initiative for brands to build long-term relationships with their target audience. Today, brands from Apple to Nike use Bebo as a platform to establish ongoing conversations with consumers.

Bebo pioneered the blending of Web-native original content with interactivity in the social networking environment by co-producing "KateModern," the most successful TV show on the Web, now in its second season, followed by the soon to be premiered "Sophia's Diary," and the upcoming "Gap Year." In December 2007, Bebo opened its platform to external application developers becoming the first social network to embrace both Facebook and OpenSocial APIs. To date, more than 1500 applications have joined the network.

AOL was advised by Banc of America Securities LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. Bebo was advised by Allen & Co.

AOL and Bebo senior management will host a conference call beginning at 9:00 am ET to discuss the day's news.

The dialing instructions for the call are:

In the United States: 888-730-9143
Outside the U.S.: 210-839-8553
Passcode: AOL Update

Please dial in at least ten to fifteen minutes before the call's scheduled start to ensure you are connected in time for the beginning of the call.

Note to Editors: Photos, logos and video from today’s announcement are available on the AOL Corporate Site at

About AOL
AOL® is a global Web services company that operates some of the most popular Web destinations, offers a comprehensive suite of free software and services runs one of the largest Internet access businesses in the U.S., and provides a full set of advertising solutions. A majority-owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX), AOL LLC and its subsidiaries have operations in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia. Learn more at

About Bebo
Bebo, founded by Michael and Xochi Birch, is the world's leading global social media network. Building on the notion of traditional social networking websites, Bebo combines community, self-expression and entertainment to enable its users to consume, create, discover and share professional and user-generated content through the Bebo website. Bebo has 11.4m unique users in the UK and a total membership of more than 40 million worldwide. Bebo also ranks as the UK's most engaging social network with users spending an average of 33 minutes on the site per usage day.**

*According to comScore Media Metrix February 2008 data, Platform-A continues to be the number one advertising network with 167 million unique visitors and a domestic reach of 90%.

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