RealTime IT News

JDate.com Owner Spark Networks Seeks Buyer: Report

Spark Networks, home to popular Jewish online dating site JDate.com, is seeking a buyer and is talking to leading social networks and Web dating communities, The New York Times said on Friday.

Spark shares rose more than 15 percent to $5.60 in midday trading after the Times said the company could fetch a price as high as $185 million, based on analyst estimates. That would represent a premium of nearly 40 percent to its closing price on Thursday.

The report, quoting people close to the auction, said Spark Networks was in early talks with companies including Yahoo's eHarmony, News Corp.'s MySpace, as well as IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns Match.com.

Representatives for Spark, eHarmony, MySpace and IAC could not immediately be reached for comment.

Spark also owns AmericanSingles.com for daters looking to a wider audience and HurryDate.com, as well as sites oriented to specific communities like BlackSingles.com and CatholicMingle.com.

Online dating has been a consistent area of growth on the Web. Match.com has contributed to double-digit earnings growth for IAC's membership and subscriptions unit.

But Spark Networks posted a 5 percent drop in revenue for the first nine months of 2007 to $49.2 million, as its sites geared to a wider audience lost ground to larger rivals.

About half of the revenue came from its Jewish Networks division, which rose 5 percent in the period.

Spark reported more than 208,000 total paying subscribers in the third quarter, down from nearly 241,000 in the year earlier period. About 95,000 subscribers belonged to its Jewish Networks unit.