AutoTrader plans IPO to raise funds, reduce debt
AutoTrader Group Inc., looking to raise funds and reduce debt after several acquisitions, is planning an initial public offering for the second time in 12 years.
Proceeds from the $300 million stock sale will be used for general corporate purposes, to reduce debt, and acquisitions, the company said.
The number of shares to be sold and the share price haven't been determined, according to the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
AutoTrader collects revenue from more than 20,000 car dealers for its software products and to maintain listings on its car-related websites.
Cox Enterprises Inc., a private media company, founded AutoTrader in 1997 as a subsidiary of Manheim Auctions Inc. Cox sold a 25 percent stake in AutoTrader to Providence Equity Partners in 2010.
Cox currently owns 68 percent of AutoTrader, with Providence's stake at 25 percent and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with a 5-percent stake. The remaining 2-percent stake is controlled by management.
In 2000, AutoTrader filed for a $65 million IPO but scuttled the plans during the dot-com bust.
AutoTrader Group, which operates AutoTrader.com and owns Kelley Blue Book and vAuto, a software company specializing in used-vehicle inventory management tools for dealers, operates one of the largest digital automotive marketplaces in the United States.
Cox shuttered AutoTrader magazine in 2008 amid the auto industry's sales downturn and an overall decline in print advertising.
AutoTrader, of Atlanta, posted profits of $68.1 million on revenues of $1.02 billion in 2011. It had about $884.4 million in debt at the end of March.
Nearly 90 percent of AutoTrader's revenue is derived from digital media and services.
The company said in the filing that it reaches approximately 60 percent of online "in-market" car shoppers in the United States.
In the filing, AutoTrader also disclosed that it does not own the AutoTrader.com trademark and leases it from TPI Holdings Inc.
AutoTrader acquired Kelley Blue Book in December 2010 for $532.4 million in cash. The purchase included Kelley's sister companies CDMdata and CDM Dealer Services.
In a February interview with Automotive News, AutoTrader CEO Chip Perry declined to comment on speculation that the company would pursue an IPO.
"We're well funded. That would not be a reason for an IPO," Perry said at the time.
He said the company was building "a powerful combination of media companies, with leading-edge software tools to become much more efficient in the way dealers attract shoppers, manage their inventories and convert prospects into customers.
"We are making significant investments," Perry added.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley & Co. are managing the offering.
A spokesman said AutoTrader "can't say anything more than what is in the filing to the SEC" at this time.
Perry earned $19.6 million last year — including a $700,000 salary and a $1 million bonus, according to AutoTrader's S-1 filing.
"We believe that we are well-positioned to benefit as consumer behavior and advertising budgets continue to shift toward digital and mobile platforms and as dealers increasingly require more automation and analytical tools," the company said in the filing.
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