Experian Parent Buys PriceGrabber For $485 Million

Well, that didn’t take long. Little more than a month after PriceGrabber CEO Kamran Pourzanjani told me that his company would “continue to do well as a stand-alone company,” retail and financial services company GUS PLC announced today that it has bought PriceGrabber.com for $485 million.

GUS may not be a familiar name, but its subsidiaries include Experian (credit reports), and U.K. retailers Argos and Homebase. Earlier this year GUS purchased loan-lead site LowerMyBills.com for $330 million.

This is the third major shopping and comparison search engine acquisition this year. In June, eBay acquired Shopping.com for $625 million, and a week later Shopzilla agreed to be acquired by media company E.W. Scripps for $525 million.

Who’s next?

When I was preparing my annual shopping search roundup I asked Stephen Imbler, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of NexTag whether NexTag was on the market. He told me that “our intent is to be a large successful internet company,” and that a buyout or IPO was one of the “options” the company was considering.

Become.com is also a likely target. Co-founders Michael Yang and Yeogirl Yung are old hands at the build and sell game. The pair sold one of the first shopping search engines, MySimon to C|Net in January 2000 for $700 million. Yun created the Wisenut search engine and sold it to Looksmart in April 2002 in an all stock deal valued at just under $10 million at the time.

Smarter.com is another possibility. Headed by a group of ex-Overture execs, the company has been profitable since the get-go, according to Smarter.com co-founder Talmadge O’Neill. The company is also moving aggressively to build up a presence in Japan and China, one of the fastest growing online markets in the world.

Postscript From Gary: Experian’s interactive division also owns LowermyBills.com, MetaReward, Affiliate Fuel, ClassesUSA.com and Experian Consumer Direct.

Orange Country, CA based PriceGrabber maintains its own site and also powers shopping search on many other sites including Ask Jeeves, Comcast’s web portal, and others. It also has an agreement with MSN. PriceGrabber offers products and services from about 9000 merchants.

PriceGrabber was formed in 1999 and employs 140 people.

More in this Bloomberg report and the official press release. More about Experian Information Services itself on this overview page from Hoover’s.

2005 has been a “year of consolidation” in the shopping search space as Chris recently pointed out in : Shopping Search Week 2005. This article does a fantastic job of reviewing the year and includes details abouts eBay’s purchase of Shopping.com and Shopzilla’s acquisition by E.W. Scripps.

Since Chris wrote this article another development I see as important in shopping search is the recent inclusion of eBay items into the MSN Shopping database. As noted earlier, MSN has a partnership agreement to provide contnet to PriceGrabber.

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