USA Interactive Adding Lending Tree to Portfolio

You can add consumer loans to the services Barry Diller plans to sell over the Internet.

Diller's USA Interactive ( USAI) said Monday it agreed to acquire Lending Tree ( TREE) for stock worth between $626 million and $734 million, based on an exchange formula.

Lending Tree describes itself as an online lending exchange, acting as a middleman between consumers wanting loans and lenders such as banks and realtors. It claims to have facilitated about $48 billion in loans since its inception in 1996 and recently entered the real estate market.

News of the acquisition lifted Lending Tree's stock 45% to $21.35 on the Instinet premarket, and also boosted shares of E-Loan ( EELN), which has a similar product, 14% to $3.75. USA Interactive's stock fell about 1% to $34.62 on Instinet.

For Diller, the acquisition comes on the heels of agreements to buy out the public shareholders of two other majority-owned properties, Hotels.com ( ROOM) and Expedia.com ( EXPE), and consolidate ownership of Ticketmaster.

"With this transaction, USA now has a presence in seven key areas of interactive commerce that represent approximately 75% of total interactive commerce -- travel, ticketing, goods, personals, local/classified advertising, financial services and real estate," USA Interactive said in a release.

USA doesn't expect any immediate earnings impact from the acquisition, although it predicted Lending Tree's long-term growth with be "consistent with those of USA's fastest growing businesses." The deal must be approved by Lending Tree's shareholders; the company's board has approved it.

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