IAC Has a Hot Date in China


IAC (NAS: IACI) isn't exactly on bended knee, but it is open to acquiring a 20% stake in Chinese online dating upstart Zhenai.

The actual financial terms of the deal aren't being disclosed, but Zhenai reaches 30 million registered members. Unlike the growing number of Web-based dating sites recently popping up in the world's most populous nation, Zhenai is able to command relatively high subscription rates by offering call centers with more than 1,000 professional matchmakers that are available to members during the courting process.

IAC is no stranger to dating and mating rituals. It owns the Match.com juggernaut and took control of France's Meetic last month.

Dating in China is fundamentally different than in the Western world, as salary security and home ownership are common pre-date queries. However, China has embraced the convenience of online dating to quickly scour potential, and the growth is far superior to what we're seeing closer to home.

We don't have Zhenai financials to prove that, but market leader Jiayuan.com (NAS: DATE) did go public this year. Revenue soared 121% at Jiayuan in its latest quarter, with adjusted profitability growing even faster. Oppenheimer & Co. expects the online dating market in China to triple by 2015, and it may very well prove conservative with that call.

It may be just a coincidence that Jiayuan and stateside hookup specialist FriendFinder Networks (NAS: FFN) went public on the same day four months ago, but their performance since then is telling. Jiayuan is trading just shy of its $11 IPO price in a weak market, while FriendFinder Network has surrendered 72% of its value.

We don't know how much IAC is paying or whether Zhenai's financials are compelling, but at least IAC's heart is in the right place by turning to China for online dating growth.

If you want to see how IAC and online dating play out in China, consider addingIAC and Jiayuan.com to My Watchlist.

At the time thisarticle was published Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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