Announced this morning (April 23), comparison site companies UK Web Media and Energy Helpline are to be merged, creating what has been dubbed a “super-comparison” website.
The merger will be led by private investment firm Inflexion Private Equity, and will see the new entity, Comparison Technologies, combining the two companies’ specialisms in energy, broadband, TV and mobile providers.
While the value of the deal was not disclosed, The Daily Telegraph speculates that given the pair’s combined annual revenue of £30 million last year, Inflexion is “likely to have paid multiples of this figure”.
The news this morning follows the acquisition of Decision Tech last month by MoneySupermarket for £40 million, with the comparison company looking to tap into the acquired firm’s technology, that powers home communications and mobile comparison tools such as MoneySavingExpert and BroadBandChoices.co.uk.
According to managing partner of Inflexion, Simon Turner, speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the price comparison market continues to grow as competition in the energy and broadband sectors has “heated up”. With over 50 new year energy suppliers emerging within the last few years, consumers are turning to comparison sites to make sense of this wealth of choice and to make seamless switches between companies.
“We have seen this in the insurance market, and now Comparison Technologies has been created to offer a comparison and seamless switching service across the home services space,” said Turner.
Founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Jamie Harwood “in the confines of his bedroom”, UK Web Media developed swiftly over the following five years to launch a portfolio of sector-specific comparison sites including compare.com, broadbrand-finder.co.uk and mobile-phones.co.uk.
Since then, the company has remained agile and responsive to the market. In a 2008 interview, Harwood revealed it took his development and design team “about a week” to set up a new property, while his core team has remained small - up to just 50, according to CrunchBase.
A decade later, meanwhile, his predictions for the affiliate industry’s direction have also largely come to fruition. In the same interview, Harwood called the last click model “a good foundation” to the affiliate marketing industry, but predicted the industry would trace a route where CPA is divided between last click and “other people in the sale”.
“I don’t think it will happen this or next year, but I think it is two or three years away. I think it is definitely where merchants want to get to, and I think it’s a sensible way of doing it because there are so many facets to online sales.”
The merger approach from Inflexion announced today is far from the first time a deal has been on the table over the years, with Harwood reporting approaches from “a whole mix of people”, thanks to the effect affiliate marketing has had on their businesses.