Groupon Inc., the fast-growing purveyor of online deals distributed through e-mails and social networking, Thursday took the first steps towards an initial public offering.

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The firm filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission of its intent to go public. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are to be the lead underwriters of the IPO, the date for which hasn’t been set. Some published estimates put the amount to be raised at close to $1 billion.

Without disclosing the number of shares to be offered or their price, the Chicago-based company said in the statement that it offers more than 1,000 daily deals to 83 million subscribers in 43 countries and has “sold to date over 70 million Groupons,” according to an introductory letter from Andrew Mason, the firm’s chief executive officer.

Among these offers was one in August 2010 in which $50 of apparel from Gap was available for $25. The Groupon was made available to 9.2 million subscribers in 85 North American markets. “We sold approximately 433,000 Groupons in 24 hours, generating over $10.8 million in revenue,” the SEC filing said, adding that since the Gap discount, it’s also featured deals with Nordstrom Inc.

The filing didn’t reveal how Groupon’s business broke down by merchandise type or retail channel, but its operating statement revealed that revenues, just $94,000 in its abbreviated first year in business in 2008, mushroomed to $30.5 million in 2009 and then exploded last year, reaching $713.4 million. Like many young Web-based businesses, it’s incurred substantial losses during its initial stages as well. The net loss attributable to common stockholders, $2.2 million in 2008, was $6.9 million in 2009 and $456.3 million last year.

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