CentralNic has been awarded the back-end contract for the forthcoming .art gTLD, usurping Verisign from the role.
UK Creative Ideas, which bought .art at a private auction for an undisclosed sum a year ago, appointed the company its “exclusive registry service provider”, CentralNic said.
UKCI’s original .art application named Verisign as its back-end, and this is not the first time CentralNic has sneaked away a Verisign client.
When XYZ.com acquired .theatre, and .security and .protection from Symantec, it moved them from Verisign to its .xyz provider CentralNic.
That earned XYZ and CentralNic a contract interference lawsuit, which XYZ settled in May.
Clearly litigation has not managed to chill competition in this instance.
.art is set to launch in stages over the next 12 months, CentralNic said.
UKCI estimated in its ICANN application that it would get between 25,000 and 80,000 registrations in its first year.
That may prove to be optimistic, at least at the high end.
UKCI’s vision for .art is for a restricted gTLD, which don’t tend to do huge volumes. I believe the largest restricted new gTLD is .nyc, with about 75,000 names in its zone.
All .art registrants will have to show some kind of connection to the art world, according to UKCI’s application.
This includes artists, owners and keepers of works of art, commercial art organisations (such as galleries and auction and trading houses), not-for-profit organisations (such as museums, foundations, and professional associations), supporting businesses (such as insurance, appraisal, transport) and customers and members of the general public interested in art.
Goodness knows how this will be implemented in practice, given that basically everyone is an artist to some extent.
UKCI is based in the Isle of Man, the UK dependency presumably selected for tax reasons rather than any connection to the art world, and is backed by Russian venture capitalists.
Local former rival Minds + Machines may be struggling to turn a profit, but CentralNic seems to be doing quite well out of this new gTLD malarkey.
But not as well as you might expect. Large growth at its clients does not appear to have translated to a whole lot more revenue for CentralNic itself.
The company yesterday reported 2015 profit before tax of £1.45 million ($2.13 million), compared to £520,000 in 2014, on revenue up 71% at £10.39 million ($15.28 million).
While it may be best known nowadays as a back-end registry provider, its revenue is now fairly evenly split over its three reporting segments.
CentralNic runs the back-end registry for volume gTLDs including .xyz and Radix’s .site, .online, .website, and .space.
The company calls this “wholesale domain sales”, and it brought in £3.12 million last year, compared to £2.82 million in 2014.
You might think that the volume success of .xyz, which added about a million names in 2015, might have translated into a bigger boost, but it didn’t.
Its registrar business, which it got into through the acquisitions of Internet.bs and Instra, brought in £3.4 million, compared to £1.55 million in 2014.
Its third segment, “Enterprise including Premium Domain Name Sales” saw revenue of £3.85 million, compared to $1.69 million.
The enterprise business, which also included two software licenses and revenue from dot-brand clients, is easily the most profitable segment, with a 67% EBITDA margin. For wholesale, it’s 44%.
The £3.8 million of enterprise revenue included £3.22 million premium name sales, of which over £3 million came from a single buyer.
It’s not clear whether this was a single domain deal or a package of premiums, but it represents the most volatile element of CentralNic’s revenue.
Update (May 30) — This article originally misidentified “Company A” and “Company B” in CentralNic’s accounts as registry clients. In fact, according to CEO Ben Crawford, they’re registrar channel partners.
XYZ.com has settled a lawsuit filed against it against Verisign stemming from XYZ’s acquisition of .theatre, .security and .protection.
Verisign sued the new gTLD registry operator for “interfering” with its back-end contracts with the previous owners last August, as part of its campaign to compete against new gTLDs in the courtroom.
XYZ had acquired the .security and .protection ICANN contracts from security Symantec, and .theatre from a company called KBE Holdings.
As part of the transitions, all three applications were modified with ICANN to name CentralNic as the back-end registry services provider, replacing Verisign.
Verisign sued on the basis of tortious interference and business conspiracy. It was thrown out of court in November then amended and re-filed.
But the case appears to have now been settled.
Negari issued a grovelling not-quite-apology statement on his blog:
I am pleased to report that the recent case filed by Verisign against CentralNic, Ltd., XYZ and myself has been settled. After looking at the claims in dispute, we regret that as a result of our acquisition of the .theatre, .security and .protection extensions and our arrangement for CentralNic to serve as the backend service provider for these extensions, that Verisign was prevented from the opportunity to pursue monetization of those relationships. As ICANN’s new gTLD program continues to evolve, we would caution others who find themselves in similar situations to be mindful of the existing contracts extension owners may have with third parties.
Registries changing their minds about their back-end provider is not unheard of.
In this case, large portions of Verisign’s final amended complaint were redacted, suggesting some peculiarities to this particular switch.
If there was a monetary component to the settlement, it was not disclosed. The original Verisign complaint had demanded damages of over $2 million.
CentralNic is set to grow revenue by almost three quarters by acquiring Australian registrar Instra for $23.7 million.
The acquisition is for AUD 33 million, AUD 30 million of which will be in cash.
CentralNic plans to raise £10 million ($15 million) with a share placement to help fund the deal.
“This acquisition will grow our current revenues by 70% and extend our retail capabilities to serve customers in the fast growing emerging markets, globally,” CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement to the markets.
Instra had revenue of AUD 14.8 million ($10.7 million) in its fiscal 2015, and was profitable.
CentralNic’s revenue for the first half of this year was £4.4 million ($6.8 million).
The deal makes CentralNic, which started life as a registry, a much larger player in the registrar market.
It acquired Internet.bs for $7.5 million a couple of years ago, which brought in $2.8 million of revenue in the first half of this year.
Instra offers 150 ccTLDs and all the gTLDs, according to CentralNic.
CentralNic saw a huge 171% increase in revenue and a tripling of billings in the first half of the year, based on its newly acquired retail business and the sale of premium names.
For the six months to the end of June, the London-based firm saw revenue of £4.4 million ($6.8 million) compared to £1.6 million ($2.5 million) a year earlier.
It moved into profit during the period, netting £287,000 ($442,000) after tax compared to a loss of £599,000 in the 2014 period.
CentralNic broke down its numbers into segments, showing that its new business areas were responsible for most of the growth, while the core registry business was relatively slow.
Registry was up 13% to £1.6 million ($2.5 million).
The new registrar business, which is lead by its $7.5 million Internet.bs acquisition, leaped from £180,000 to £1.8 million (£2.8 million), while its premium name sales business was £1.1 million compared to a negligible £50,000 a year earlier.
The company noted in a statement that Google was the first “megabrand” to use a .xyz domain name and expressed optimism that this may increase awareness of new gTLDs in future.
CentralNic is the second-largest new gTLD back-end, as measured by registration volume, largely due to its .xyz contract.
It also acts as back-end for .online, which left the blocks very quickly earlier this month, racking up over 57,000 names so far.