from the October 2012 issue

E-commerce co FiftyOne mulls Wall Street IPO

FiftyOne, which provides payments and logistics products for US fashion retailers, is considering an offering at a valuation of $700-800 million.

FiftyOne Inc., which provides a package of payments and logistics products for US lifestyle and fashion retailers to facilitate global online sales, recently met with a Wall Street investment banker about an IPO at a company value of $700-800 million.

FiftyOne CEO Michael DeSimone told "Globes", "We're examining the possibility of an IPO. We've been meeting with bankers for a long time although not about an IPO." FiftyOne was founded by serial entrepreneur Yuval Tal as an online foreign exchange company, E4X, in 1999, before switching to its current name and business in 2007. It is headquartered in New York City and has a R&D and back office center in Tel Aviv.

FiftyOne's turning up on Wall Street's doorstep is surprising, given its business, in a field with many failures. The 2008 crisis hit the US economy hard. Banks collapsed, companies had to deal with plummeting sales, and people faced personal bankruptcy, as the financial tsunami threatened to wipe out whatever stood in its path. The crisis also created opportunities, one of which was seized by FiftyOne.

In late 2008, US retailers, worried about the domestic economy and falling sales, sought new sources of revenue. FiftyOne entered the picture with a platform that facilitated global sales by US retailers, while maintaining the US shopping experience. The company adapts retailers' websites to domestic markets in other countries, providing payments processing, cost calculations, fraud prevention, and shipments services, and a global returns management center.

"The US economic crash without question played in our favor," stated DeSimone, Ęduring a visit to the company's R&D center in Tel Aviv. "Retailers began to see that they could find growth outside the American market and reach customers that were previously beyond their reach. That drew them to us."

FiftyOne has since become well-known among US department stores and major retailers. Its customers include some of the most respected names in the industry, including Macy's, Saks Fifth Avennue, Sears Roebuck, Bloomingdales, GAP, Williams Sonoma, DKNY, and 120 other US brands, which now sell products in more than 100 countries and 40 currencies.

In 2009, a year after the platform's launch, it had $25 million in turnover, and the figure is expected to be many times higher in 2012. FiftyOne's revenue comes from its commission on international sales, and is expected to reach $70 million this year, 75% more than in 2011.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report October 2012

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