Cox Automotive Gets Into Online Shopping With Purchase of DealerTrack

 

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Cox Automotive, a subsidiary of privately held Cox Enterprises, on Monday said it has said it has agreed to acquire DealerTrack Technologies (TRAK) for $4 billion cash, broadening Cox Automotive's already large footprint as a vendor to new and used-car dealerships in the U.S.

As the owner of Manheim auto auctions, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader and other properties related to buying and selling vehicles, Cox now adds computer services that tie dealers to manufacturers, lenders and parts suppliers to its product portfolio. The company has about 24,000 employees. 

The transaction will be financed through a new $1.85 billion loan and existing credit facilities. Cox is based in Atlanta. 

Through DealerTrack's Dealer.com subsidiary, the transaction deepens Cox's foothold in the rapidly expanding business of online retail sales by dealers. In March 2014, DealerTrack acquired digital-marketing giant Dealer.com for $1 billion 

Increasingly, shoppers are choosing to browse used and new-vehicle inventories via the Internet, determine accurate market prices for vehicles and negotiate sales without visiting dealerships, although most final transactions are conducted face-to-face at dealerships.

The prices and values for vehicles have grown more transparent to consumers and lenders as dealers have shared transaction information with a number of research companies and online ventures such as TrueCar (TRUE).  

Sandy Schwartz, president of Cox Automotive, called DealerTrack's portfolio of services "complementary," a way to deliver better services to consumers, dealers and manufacturers. Cox Automotive had about $5 billion in revenue last year; it was the second-largest division of the parent company, which owns many media properties including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DealerTrack is based in Lake Success, N.Y. It operates the retail automobile industry's largest online vehicle financing network, connecting about 20,000 dealers to 1,500 or so lenders. The purchase price was based on $63.25 a share, representing roughly a 60% premium over the quoted per-share price.

Shares of DealerTrack shot up 58% to $62.81 in late afternoon trading on Monday on news of the deal.

The company's revenue in 2014 was $854.4 million, up from $451.5 million in 2013. The company grew organically at a rate of about 20%, according to CEO Mark O'Neil, but much faster with acquisitions. DealerTrack has about 5,000 employees.

DealerTrack's board is recommending that shareholders accept the offer.

"This provides a significant premium and immediate cash value for DealerTrack stockholders at closing," O'Neil said in a news release.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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