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CentralNic buys a bunch of web sites for $5.2 million

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2022, Domain Services

CentralNic said yesterday has splashed out $5.2 million on what it calls “a portfolio of revenue generating niche websites”.

The announcement doesn’t specify any of the “multiple” sellers or the nature of the sites, other that to say it will add $1.2 million to the top line and $1.4 million of EBITDA in 2023.

The company was already responsible for monetizing some of the sites it has bought.

CentralNic hinted that it might be slowing down its long-running acquisition spree following the departure of 13-year veteran CEO Ben Crawford last week.

The company said “it is intended that in the future, the emphasis of cashflow generated will be a more balanced approach of returns to shareholders, deleverage and complementary bolt-on acquisitions.”

The newly announced deal was presumably in the advanced stages of closure at the time of Crawford’s departure.

Melbourne IT to relaunch, return to roots, after $3.4 million acquisition

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2022, Domain Registrars

Australian registrar Webcentral.au is to revive its Melbourne IT brand with a renewed focus on the corporate domains market, following the AUD 5 million ($3.4 million) acquisition of a smaller rival.

The company said today it’s buying registrar New Domain Services and bringing its CEO, Jonathan Horne, on board as the new boss of Melbourne IT, which divested its corporate domains arm to CSCGlobal in 2013.

Webcentral now says it plans to “relaunch the Melbourne IT brand and business and pursue growth opportunities in the corporate domains services sector”, returning the company to its roots.

New Domain has revenue of AUD 2 million and EBITDA of AUD 1.2 million, with 25,000 customers, the company said.

Melbourne IT was among the first handful of registrars to be accredited by ICANN when it broke up Network Solutions’ monopoly in the late 1990s.

CentralNic picks up marketing firm for up to $19 million

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2022, Domain Registries

CentralNic has made yet another acquisition, this time of a young Israeli online marketing company in a deal worth up to $19 million.

The company said it is buying M.A Aporia Ltd for $11.2 million, with the possibility of up to an extra $7.8 million in performance-related payouts by 2024.

Aporia provides services that research audiences and target advertising. CentralNic said it had revenue of $35 million last year, along with gross profit of $3.5 million and EBITDA of $2 million.

But CentralNic said the company is an exclusive supplier and therefore won’t increase its top line in the short term. Instead, it will improve margins and earnings by cutting out a middleman from the online marketing business.

CEO Ben Crawford described the move as “disintermediating the value chain… removing transaction costs and friction losses”.

MarkMonitor to join Newfold in $300 million deal

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2022, Domain Registrars

Corporate domain registrar MarkMonitor is to be sold to Newfold Digital for $302.5 million cash, the companies announced today.

The company’s current owner, Clarivate, bought NarkMonitor for an undisclosed sum in 2017 and sold off its brand protection unit two years later.

So Newfold’s getting the registrar business and domain management services to add to its stable, which already includes Network Solutions, Register.com, Web.com, and Domain.com.

MarkMonitor has about a million gTLD domains under management and an unknown number of ccTLD domains.

The company has about 2,000 clients around the world, the companies said in a press release.

MarkMonitor expects about $80 million of revenue and $35 million of EBITDA this year.

Looks like XYZ bought another gTLD

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2022, Domain Registries

XYZ.com appears to have added the 34th string to its swelling stable of gTLDs.

ICANN records suggest that it’s taken over the contract for .lat, a TLD aimed at Latin America.

While no contract reassignment documentation has been published, the transfer of .lat from ECOM-LAC, the Uruguay-based registry, to XYZ is on ICANN’s list of contract movements.

.lat’s addressable market is the over 600 million people in the Latin American region, not to mention the global diaspora. Names sell for as little as $25 per year.

But it only has about 5,500 domains under management right now, seven years after launch.

In theory, it would compete with .latino, but that appears to be a dodgy defensive delegation, never launched, by satellite TV company Dish.

CentralNic revenue almost doubles

CentralNic has reported its preliminary first-half financial report, showing a top line that almost doubled compared to last year.

The company, which nowadays makes most of its growth from domain monetization, saw revenue up 92% to $335 million, driven by acquisitions. Organic revenue growth was up 62%.

Adjusted EBITDA was up 85% at $38 million, CentralNic said.

The company credited its online marketing segment, which it has built through acquisitions over the last couple of years, for the bulk of the growth.

Speaking of acquisitions, CentralNic also said today that it’s on the hook for $1,138,400 due to the acquisition of KeyDrive — holding company for the likes of registrar Moniker and registry KSRegistry — which was carried out in 2018.

That’s at the low-end of the up to $10.5 million in performance-related acquisition payout announced at the time.

.link gTLD buyer revealed

Another of UNR’s portfolio auction winners has emerged.

This time it’s .link, UNR’s low-cost volume play, and the buyer appears to be a veteran domain investor named Yonatan Belousov.

ICANN records for .link were updated today to name a Maltese company called Nova Registry, an individual named Emanuel Debono, and an email address at nova.link as contacts.

It’s not a great sign when you google a company or person and all the top hits are from the Panama Papers leaks, but of course not every use of offshore companies is shady and ICANN will have done its due diligence.

Digging deeper into the rabbit hole, corporate records show Nova is owned by another Maltese company called Vanderlay Investments, which in turn has Belousov, known in the domaining industry as Yoni and a regular guest on Domain Sherpa, as the sole owner.

The domain nova.link doesn’t resolve to a web site, but it is registered to another Maltese company called Indefinite, which has a nice collection of one-word .com domains for sale.

The new information means we now know the identities of the buyers of 15 of the 23 gTLD contracts UNR put up for sale in April 2021. XYZ, GoDaddy, Top Level Design and Dot Hip Hop all walked away with shiny pre-loved TLDs.

Three gTLDs to lose Donuts trademark protection

Three gTLDs are set to lose the trademark protection coverage at the end of the month, following their sale from Donuts to Public Interest Registry.

As noted by corporate registrar Com Laude recently, .charity, .gives and .foundation will no longer fall under Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List service as of June 1.

DPML is a blocking services whereby the registry reserves trademarked strings across its whole portfolio of almost 300 gTLDs in exchange for a fee that is a big discount on defensive registrations.

gTLDs not in the portfolio will naturally enough no longer qualify, but Com Laude reported that existing subscriptions will be honored and PIR will offer DPML users the chance to change to a full registration.

Donuts announced the sale of the three TLDs to PIR last December.

PIR doesn’t have its own DPML equivalent. Its portfolio is small and its biggest deal is .org, where the defensive blocking horse bolted decades ago.

New gTLD pioneer MMX to wind up

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2022, Domain Registries

MMX, the new gTLD registry also known as Minds + Machines, has decided to close down and de-list.

The company said today that it plans to return its remaining cash to investors through a tender offer and then cancel its remaining shares, which are listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

The cancellation plan is subject to shareholder approval at a February 7 general meeting, but the tender does not require approval.

MMX will buy back shares to the tune of £19 million ($26 million) at 10.4 pence per share, a premium of 26.1% on yesterday’s closing price and 24.8% on the last month’s average price.

It follows an $80 million tender offer completed in October.

MMX sold off its major assets — 22 new gTLD registry contracts — to GoDaddy last year in a $120 million deal, and has wound down its legacy registrar businesses.

Now, all that remains is a transition services agreement with GoDaddy, which will soon end.

There had been talk of using the AIM listing as a reverse-takeover vehicle for an operating business seeking quick access to the public markets, but it appears that’s no longer on the table.

If everything goes according to plan, MMX will cease to exist as a public company on February 22. Shareholders have until January 28 to accept the tender offer.

It seems the remaining shareholders will be losing out — if the tender offer is fully subscribed, they’ll only get to sell one share for every 1.485 shares they currently own.

.org back-end deal will come up for re-bid, PIR says as it acquires four new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2021, Domain Registries

The industry’s most lucrative back-end registry services contract will be rebid, Public Interest Registry said today.

The deal, which sees PIR pay Afilias $18.3 million a year to run .org, according to tax records, will see a request for proposals issued in the back half of 2023, according to PIR.

Given that’s two years away, it’s strange timing for the announcement, which came at the bottom of a press release and blog post announcing that the company is acquiring four new gTLDs, three of which belong to Afilias’ new owner, Donuts.

PIR said Donuts is to transfer control of .charity, .foundation and .gives, which will be “reintroduced” to the market. .foundation currently has about 20,000 registered domains; the other two have a few thousand each.

It’s also acquiring the unlaunched gTLD .giving from a company called Giving Ltd.

All four are on-message for PIR’s not-for-profit portfolio, which also includes the barely-used .ngo and .ong for non-governmental organizations.

Those two gTLDs are getting decoupled, allowing registrants to register one without having to buy the other, PIR also said today.

The last time the PIR back-end contract came up for renewal, in 2015, Afilias was also the incumbent but increased competition — it was up against 20 rivals — meant that its slice of .org revenue was cut in half.