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MoneySavingExpert has been sold to price comparison website Moneysupermarket for £87 million, but founder Martin Lewis promises its editorial content will remain unbiased.
MoneySupermarket (MONY.L) will pay £60 million upfront as a mixture of £35 million in cash and around 22.1 million shares, with an additional £27 million paid after three years providing the website meets its targets.
Lewis has pledged to donate £10 million of the money raised through the deal to charity – £1 million of which will go to Citizens Advice, with the rest placed in a Charities Aid Foundation trust while he decides which other charities to help.
Lewis has reassured readers that a strict editorial code has been agreed as part of the sale to ensure the website continues to provide independent information – an important issue as the website is trusted by millions of users as a source of money saving guidance.
Lewis said the two websites will continue to operate as completely separate entities, just part of a bigger group. He added that his journalists will continue to speak freely, be that positively or negatively, about MoneysSupermarket’s services.
Explaining the purpose of the deal, Lewis said: ‘MoneySupermarket is superb at technology and it's an easy-to-use site. Many have said we're a cluttered site, tough to navigate and our search engine ranking isn't the best’.
Peter Plumb, chief executive officer of MoneySupermarket, meanwhile said: ‘We'll help MoneySavingExpert.com reach a wider audience and MoneySavingExpert.com will broaden the range of advice and tools we offer, encouraging even more people to take action, tap into the benefits of the internet to find a better deal and make the most of their money'.
The deal still needs to be approved by the Office of Fair Trading, which is likely to take a few months, and shareholders. Once completed Lewis will become an employee of Moneysupermarket and continue to act as editor-in-chief of MoneySavingExpert for at least three years.
MoneySavingExpert, which will be 10 years old next year, is said to have around 39 million unique visitors and its weekly email is sent to around five million email addresses.
In the year ending October 2011 MoneySavingExpert reported revenues of £15.77 million – up from £11.36 million in 2010. Some 59% of this was made from payments by MoneySupermarket, which is the website’s largest provider of links to product providers mentioned in MoneySavingExpert's editorial content.
David Taylor of the Chelverton UK equity income fund, which is in Citywire Selection, said MoneySupermarket.com was one of three ‘cash machine’ stocks in his fund.