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Australia – Freelancer opts for IPO instead of buy-out

18 September 2013

Online staffing portal Freelancer.com is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in Australia this year after refusing several attempts to buy it. Reports indicate that the company will be listed on the Australian Securities Exchange before the end of 2013.

Freelancer had reportedly been the subject of several buy-out bids in recent months; including a USD 400 million approach from Japanese recruitment firm Recruit Holdings Co.

Matt Barrie, Freelancer CEO, told Reuters: "It's really early days in the space for us, so I think it would be too early for us to sell the business at this point in time."

According to Mr Barrie, the company had looked at term sheets from venture capitalists, approaches from private equity players and banks as well as offers to sell the whole business. "I think there is going to be a global market place for services… there's such a long way to go in this space, we want to go out there and capture more of the territory," he added. Mr Barrie currently owns 50% of the business.

Freelancer would be capitalising on a buoyant local IPO market and a local listing would help boost Australia's fast-growing tech sector. Mr Barrie commented that the ASX was a ‘great place’ to list the company, saying that more money had been raised on ASX than on the NASDAQ in the past five years.

Matt Barrie told Reuters: "We think the Australian stock market is a great market to go to... Tech companies, in my opinion, are trading at a premium to the U.S.”

Mr Barried confirmed to StartupSmart that the public listing would go ahead and he would not see the IPO as an exit. In an unusual move, he will buy stock and stay on as chief executive.

Mr Barrie declined to comment on a potential valuation for the IPO, as the company is in a blackout period until it files its prospectus. The company has engaged Sydney-based KTM Capital Pty Ltd as broker and underwriter for the listing.

Freelancer matches employers and freelancers around the world through its website for tasks such as data entry, design, and accounting. So far, it has had almost nine million users, with almost five million projects posted.

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