Emoticon co SweetIM seeks $30m buyer

Perion Networks and Babylon have been approached by the emoticon developer.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that emoticon developer SweetIM Ltd. is up for sale, and has approached several companies in its field, including Perion Networks Inc. (Nasdaq:PERI: TASE:PERI) and Babylon Ltd. (TASE:BBYL), to buy it. One of SweetIM's shareholders is Gigi Levy, the former CEO of 888 Holding plc (LSE:888).

SweetIM, founded in 2005, partly resembles both Perion Networks (formerly IncrediMail) and Babylon. The company develops downloadable emoticons, smileys, and winks for integration with toolbars, e-mails, and Facebook. The company's toolbar search engine is preset, and it has a cooperation agreement with Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG).

The sources said that SweetIM had a profit of $4 million on $16 million revenue in 2011. The Ra'anana-based company has 50 employees.

So far as is known, SweetIM is up for sale because its largest shareholder, a successful but relatively unknown US businessman, who apparently owns more than half of the company, is not interested in trying to make the company into the largest in its field, and prefers to sell for as high a price as possible. The company has reportedly raised a few million dollars from angel investors (no venture capital fund has invested in it), including Levy, who invested $250,000 in 2006. Other shareholders include the company's founders and employees.

The decision to sell by SweetIM's controlling shareholder has forced CEO Nadav Goshen to seek a buyer. He previously served as a VP at Babylon, and before that worked at Empire Online, controlled by Babylon's controlling shareholder, Noam Lanir.

Perion was interested in acquiring SweetIM, but faced financing problems: SweetIM is asking $30 million, and Perion has $16.3 million in cash. Perion tried and failed to raise debt on the TASE to finance an acquisition. At the same time, Babylon told SweetIM that it was not interested, and not only because it believed that the asking price was too high.

Although successful, SweetIM does not create substantial added value or technology for a company like Babylon. SweetIM may be more suited for Perion, but the negotiations broke down over financing. Perion has a market cap of $70 million, so a $30 million acquisition could be burdensome, although it would not be the first time that the company made a big acquisition: it acquired Smilebox for $25 million in cash in 2011.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 4, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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