BERLIN, Germany — Rocket Internet AG, which has copied business models from Airbnb Inc. to Birchbox Inc., plans to raise 750 million euros ($970 million) in one of Europe’s most anticipated technology initial public offerings this year.
The sale will comprise only new shares, which will trade on the Frankfurt exchange before the end of the year, Berlin-based Rocket said in a statement today. The IPO could value the seven year-old company at about 5 billion euros, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.
The sale proceeds will help Chief Executive Officer Oliver Samwer bring more established online business models to markets such as Latin America, South East Asia, India and Africa. Shoe and fashion retailer Zalando SE, which received initial funding from Rocket in 2008, announced its own plan to sell shares to the public on Sept. 3.
“We have built a unique platform that has allowed us to take Internet business models to over 100 countries today,” Samwer said in the statement. “Taking our company public is the next step in our journey to build the world’s leading Internet platform outside of the United States and China.”
In meetings with investors, Rocket has compared its business model with that of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., people familiar with the talks said in June. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce operator, plans to sell shares this month and is targeting a valuation of as much as $162.7 billion.
Rocket plans to list on Frankfurt’s entry standard, which has more lenient reporting obligations, and move to the prime standard within 18 to 24 months, the company said. The six existing shareholders won’t sell their shares for at least a year after the transaction, according to the statement.
Berenberg Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are coordinating the offer, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG are joint bookrunners.
“Rocket should be able to get a small premium versus what recent investors have paid,” said Heinz Steffen, an analyst at Fairesearch in Kronberg, Germany. “Whether the business itself merits the valuation is another question.”
Brothers Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer have drawn criticism for cloning promising U.S. Internet businesses internationally. Since starting their first so-called dot-clone in 1999, a German version of EBay Inc., they’ve duplicated sites such as those of Airbnb Inc., EHarmony Inc. and Pinterest Inc. Rocket typically starts the companies, hires staff and provides initial marketing, design and management know-how.
A test for Rocket’s valuation will be how it can translate sales growth into profit. Ten Rocket e-commerce startups for which shareholder Investment AB Kinnevik disclosed earnings -- including Lamoda, Dafiti and Westwing -- had an aggregate operating loss of 432 million euros last year on sales of 743 million euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on a company report.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Germany’s United Internet AG last month injected 768 million euros into Rocket. Rocket subsequently got a bigger hold on several of its investments in an deal that gave a 2.5 percent stake to Holtzbrinck Ventures GmbH.
After that transaction, Rocket’s largest shareholder was the Samwer brothers’ Global Founders Fund with a 52.3 percent stake. Kinnevik of Sweden held 18.1 percent, United Internet had 10.4 percent, Philippine Long Distance Telephone held 8.4 percent, and billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries had 8.3 percent.
By Cornelius Rahn, Ruth David; with assistance from Adam Ewing; editors: Kenneth Wong, Aaron Kirchfeld, Elizabeth Fournier.