Kara Swisher

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LivingSocial Gets $175 Million Amazon Investment (Like BoomTown Said)

Amazon will invest $175 million in LivingSocial, the No. 2 player in the fast-growing social buying space.

(The press release is below.)

BoomTown reported yesterday that the massive investment was in the works.

The online retail giant’s big bet on the Washington, D.C.-based start-up comes in the wake of ongoing acquisition talks between Google and Groupon, the category leader in the local deals business.

While it appears to be a reaction to those discussions, sources said Amazon and LivingSocial have been talking for some time about a variety of deals between them.

Sources said the Amazon investment put a very hefty valuation of over one billion dollars on LivingSocial.

Interest in LivingSocial has heightened of late, given the $6 billion in cash, stock and earnouts that BoomTown has reported Google is considering ponying up to purchase Chicago-based Groupon, and grab ahold of its 12 million users across the globe and $500 million in annual revenue.

But LivingSocial–which has been thriving even in Groupon’s flashier shadow–has 10 million subscribers worldwide in more than 120 markets and five countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland and Australia.

And, as LivingSocial noted when it announced its acquisition of Australia’s Jump On It recently, it is currently booking an average of more than $1 million a day and is projected to book well more than $500 million in revenue in 2011.

And that is what has attracted Amazon, which has almost no profile in this lucrative local space, despite some attempts at its own solution. It bought a small and quirky daily deals site, Woot, for $110 million in June.

But sources said that, rather than sell, LivingSocial management wanted to keep the company independent, and thinks a sale of Groupon will give it a huge opportunity for growth.

Why? Well, even though Groupoogle or Goopon are fun to say, the inevitable regulatory review could drag on, resulting in a slowing down of innovation in the bigger Google culture and the distinct possibility of newly rich Groupon execs flying the coop (in private planes).

More investment money should help LivingSocial move ahead faster. Sources also said there is likely to be deep integration between its and Amazon’s services.

LivingSocial announced in April that it had raised $14 million in a Series C round, after grabbing $25 million in a Series B venture funding only a month before. And it has raised $10 million on top of that since 2008.

Sources estimated at the time that the valuation for LivingSocial was several hundred million dollars.

The newest round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners; earlier investors include U.S. Venture Partners, Grotech Ventures and former AOL head Steve Case.

Lightspeed also invested $8 million more on top of Amazon’s funding.

Here is the official press release:

LivingSocial Announces $175 Million Investment by Amazon.com

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/–LivingSocial (www.livingsocial.com) has secured a $175 million investment from Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN). LivingSocial has also secured an additional $8 million investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners. LivingSocial will use this investment to maintain a steady drumbeat of worldwide launches and overall business growth while continuing to serve more than 10 million subscribers across the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland and Australia in more than 120 locations. Because of LivingSocial’s rapid expansion, the company is currently booking revenues of more than $1 million a day on average and is projected to book well over $500 million in revenue in 2011.

“To be the biggest player in the local commerce space there is no one better to work with than Amazon,” said Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO of LivingSocial. “As the social shopping space continues to heat up, LivingSocial is committed to staying focused on providing the high level of quality that consumers and merchants have come to expect when working with us.”

As the online source to find amazing experiences at an unbeatable value, LivingSocial lets anyone experience the hottest restaurants, shops, activities and services in their area. The company has dedicated area experts on the ground in every location working directly with business owners, and constantly researching the best in local adventures to bring a savings of 50% to 70% for consumers.

Recently, LivingSocial expanded its business by acquiring adventure company Urban Escapes, and launching three new verticals including LivingSocial Family Edition, Campus Deals and LivingSocial Escapes, a travel site that offers unbeatable savings on curated adventures. In addition, the company continues a regular flow of launches–on average one per day–and has expanded its reach in Australia with a controlling stake in Jump On It, making it live in five countries.

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