Extra-marital affairs dating website Ashley Madison revealed that it could abandon its widely publicised London IPO, which was estimated to raise £135 million ($US200 million) to fuel a massive expansion, because it has potentially found a “better option.”
Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media which owns Ashley Madison as well as a range of other niche dating websites, told Business Insider in a telephone interview that after a two-month roadshow, the number of potential options for the group’s shareholders has widened and now listing on a stock exchange isn’t necessarily the No.1 choice.
The last time we spoke to Biderman in April, he seemed pretty deadset on his company launching an IPO in London. But after courting a number of unnamed London banking giants, Biderman said they haven’t secured a bookrunner for the listing.
“There is no change in securing a bank to lead an IPO but right now we are looking and assessing two different strategies. We can do a straight-up IPO, but since the news of the potential launch was made, we got a lot of attention and this has garnered a range of further options,” said Biderman.
“With the kind of income we generated over the last eight years and if we remain as profitable as we are now over the next eight years, it may be in our current shareholders’ interest to for us to use an investment vehicle to give them set dividends. For example, investing $US1 a year, would give you $US1 in return the following year, rather than investing $US1 and potentially getting $US5 some time down the road.”
Does this mean Ashley Madison will abandon its IPO completely?
“We are not a typical tech company and we have a subscriptions model. We never wanted to launch an IPO because we had to, or to get funding to keep the lights on, we just thought it was one of the best options for expanding and giving good returns to shareholders. We generate tens of millions in cash flows,” said Biderman.
“We always said that we would take the next few months to see what options there are for us and we don’t want to rush and make a mistake, but we are looking to commit to a decision around August.”
In 2014, it had $US115 million (£76 million) in revenues, which is almost a fourfold increase since 2009. This is largely pegged to a growth in female users, according to Biderman. He said that revenue is projected to reach over $US150 million (£99 million) over the next year or so, as membership from culturally conservative parts of the world is surging.
Since the IPO news was released in April, subscriptions have gone up.
“We have increased our subscriptions by 20% in the last two months to 37 million users. I don’t just attribute it to our potential IPO news from April, or that the listing news legitimised us, I just think it is part of the broader acceptance of how people hook up,” said Biderman.
So what are the factors for deciding whether Ashley Madison will abandon its IPO plans for the private investment vehicle?
“Well, IPOs also depend on market conditions. At the moment there is the global macroeconomic situation with Greece, which could affect markets. Then we have seen this potential Match.com IPO news come up and this could be certainly very interesting for us down the line. So we have to see.”