By Sarah McBride and Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Digital-coupon business Coupons.com said it had raised $200 million from institutional investors, underscoring the tremendous investor appetite for businesses that help consumers find bargains using the Internet.
That amount of cash places Coupons.com among a fairly elite group of privately held companies, including Groupon, the deal-a-day service aiming to go public later this year.
About half of the new money will go to Coupons.com's expansion, covering costs such as strategic acquisitions and marketing, Chief Executive Steven Boal told Reuters on Monday. The rest will be used to buy shares from existing investors, including employees.
Boal declined to identify the investors or the company's financial details. A person familiar with the situation said on Monday that the new investment round valued the company at $1 billion, with revenue of $100 million projected for this year.
The company gets paid based on the number of coupons printed or saved by consumers, not on how many are actually redeemed, Boal said.
In December, social networking and message company Twitter raised $200 million, giving it a valuation of $3.7 billion.
Earlier this month, online-deals company Groupon filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise up to $750 million in an initial public offering.
Those deals are much larger than some recent transactions. Earlier this week, Canada's Intertainment Media spent $700,000 to buy DealFrenzy.com, an online deal site that will launch later this summer. Australia's CatchOfTheDay said last month that it had raised an undisclosed amount that valued the company at about $80 million. Canada's Dealfind raised $31 million last month in a round led by Insight Venture Partners.
In April, more than 38 million people visited coupon websites, according to data from research firm ComScore. Coupons.com, founded in 1998, was the category leader until sometime within the last year, ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said.
With about 6.5 million unique visitors in April, Mountain View, Calif.-based Coupons.com trails Groupon, with 10.8 million visitors in the same time frame, and LivingSocial, with 8.8 million visitors. Lipsman said the newer companies are making consumers all the more eager for online deals, helping the sector overall.
"I see us getting along very well with Groupon, LivingSocial, and others," Boal told Reuters.
He pointed out his coupons carry no costs for consumers until they decide to purchase the item attached to them, be it shampoo or new clothing. Sites like Groupon require the consumer to pay up front.
The reach of the Internet allows more vendors to easily offer coupons, Boal said. Many smaller, local manufacturers get locked out of newspapers, still the leading area where consumers find coupons, because of exclusivity arrangements for various categories or because it is too expensive to place coupons there.
Coupons.com plans to add around 100 people to its 300-person staff this year, Boal said. The company has offices in Silicon Valley and London, and is opening offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.