Yahoo Sells Off European Comparison Shopping Site Kelkoo To PE Firm

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), which has been trying to sell off its European comparison shopping service Kelkoo for a while now, has finally found a buyer, according to a report: it has been sold to a little-known UK-based private equity firm called Jamplant, for something less than euro 100 million ($126 million). Yahoo bought the service in 2004 for a price then of about 475 million euros (now $598 million). Also, the founder and ex-CEO of Kelkoo Pierre Chappaz wrote about the deal (in French) on his blog but again, Yahoo hasn’t said anything yet officially.

Robert adds: Yahoo UK confirmed the sell off to us but it’s not disclosing terms. First sign of the sell-off came when Yahoo re-tooled Kelkoo’s Grenoble, France, HQ in September as a Yahoo R&D centre. Chappaz refused to name the price but said it was “below 100 million euros” – that means Yahoo makes a loss of at least 375 million ($472 million) euros (not including any profits in made in that time, of course). Chappaz said: “The difference is the price of management incompetence that led Yahoo’s (stock price to fall) below $9.”

Never heard of Jamplant? You’re not alone. Chappaz said it’s a new investment unit created by the founders of that other price comparison site USwitch, which sold to E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) for £210 million in 2006. It seems the operators have not given up their hope of running a bargain-hunting engine, as the consumer economy begins to impact spending. From Yahoo UK MD Glen Drury’s email to staff: “Philip Smyth, chairman of Jamplant, believes that, with our backing, Kelkoo should be able to accelerate its growth much faster as a standalone company.

Kelkoo has 270 staff in Grenoble and in London. Its latest business involved powering a white-label price comparison site for ITV (LSE: ITV) and similar deals with The Independent. Chappaz: “During the past year, several funds approached me to restart Kelkoo with them. I told them no. Despite my commitment to Kelkoo, I would prefer to devote myself to Wikio. The sell-off of Kelkoo by Yahoo … after the failed agreement with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) … illustrates the failure of this company to grow in the world of transaction services.”