Fifteen months after Argentine private equity firm Exxel Group bought 60% of personal finance Web portal LatinStocks.com, it is seeking to sell its stake to Argentine discount shopping site, Sudescuento. The companies have reached a preliminary agreement, and are now in the due diligence stage with a final agreement expected to be reached sometime in the next two months. America Online Inc., which came on board last fall, will also sell its 10% stake as part of the transaction.
“The Exxel Group has wanted to sell for a long time,” said a senior official with LatinStocks.com who requested anonymity.
Not only has such a sentiment likely hurt morale at LatinStocks.com, but it also hampered recent efforts to raise the $30 million to $40 million worth of additional financing considered essential to help it provide its users with everything from investment information to e-commerce to loans.
“We had a timing problem with raising capital, [due to] changes in the marketplace,” said the LatinStocks official. “An online retail financial site is impossible to sustain without a strategic investor behind it, [especially] when the market is as it is. And minority shareholders really rely on the majority shareholder, [so] it’s difficult to raise money when the majority shareholder wants to sell.”
Eduardo Gonzalez del Solar, vice president of communications and president of public affairs at the Exxel Group, said the decision was strictly strategic.
“We will continue with other companies in the Internet business, but we decided to sell LatinStocks [as early as] six months ago because normally financial sites are related to financial institutions,” he explained. “There’s a lot of competitors.”
LatinStocks is reportedly $6 million in debt, and has closed its New York office and laid off most of its staff in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, reducing its workforce from 70 to 10 people, mostly in Argentina.
According to the source within LatinStocks.com, probable new owner Sudescuento wants to keep the operation small, and is unlikely to rehire those who have been laid-off.
“They want to buy the company based upon the attractiveness of the brand. What they do with it is up to them.”
Sudescuento acquired Argentine wedding portal Bodasynovias.com in August, which was also reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy.