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Gilt Groupe Begins Charting Course to IPO

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Gilt Groupe, the New York-based online fashion retailer targeting primarily women from the ages of 25 to 35, is working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as it plans an initial public offering for later in 2014, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company's debut on public markets would mark a successful turnaround for a startup that took in more than $200 million in venture and debt financing, and shuffled CEOs in 2013, before righting its course. Bloomberg News first reported late Monday that Gilt Groupe would work on its IPO with Goldman.

Now, the company is said to be cash flow positive for 2014, and while a clear picture of last year's revenue has not emerged, a source said that even a hiccup in revenue growth should likely not disrupt the company's IPO trajectory. Gilt, founded in 2007, is said to have taken in $550 million in 2012, up from $450 million in 2011.

The company, according to a source, was adjusted-Ebitda positive for 2013 and profitable on an adjusted Ebitda basis for 2013 as well. It is believed to be generating cash from operations at the end of last year, as well. In addition to the company's web site, it has powered sales with a daily newsletter it sends to a highly engaged base of subscribers.

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The success of online retailer Zulily is beginning to embolden investors in e-commerce startups to again prepare IPOs, one source suggested. Zulily debuted on public markets at the top of its range, $22 per share, in November 2013, and at Tuesday's open was up 75%, at $38.49.

In 2013, The Deal exclusively reported that New York men's fashion e-commerce site Bonobos was looking to go public, and that GrubHubSeamless also planned a 2014 offering.

To be certain, e-commerce, daily deals and flash sales sites have encountered turbulent times. Groupon (GRPN - Get Report) IPO evaporated market interest in other daily deals sites, which likely didn't matter to LivingSocial Inc. - the company was recently marked down to zero valuation by 31% stakeholder (AMZN - Get Report), after having reeled in nearly $1 billion in venture money.

Others - in New York, where, until recently, a dearth of IPOs was weighing on the local startup scene - have struggled as well. Fab Inc. has seen its valuation plummet as key staffers, as well as a co-founder and COO, exit.

Gilt, in 2011, bought the technology of competing site BuyWithMe, which sold at a discount after, laying off staff. The company also bought e-commerce startup Decorati in 2011, in an attempt to get more into home furnishings and decor.

But Gilt has also placed bad bets over the years. In 2012, it shuttered full-priced menswear subsidiary Park & Bond, and scaled back Gilt Taste, which focused on high-end food and wine. The company also launched a new vertical recently, called Clymb, which focuses on outdoor sporting gear.

Gilt Groupe declined comment on Tuesday. The company has raised venture financing from backers including Matrix Partners, New Enterprise Associates Inc., General Atlantic LLC and Goldman Sachs.

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