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Penthouse Owner IPO is Lacking in Potency; “Looking Desperate”

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from www.nypost.com – FriendFinder Networks is looking desperate.

The cash-strapped owner of Penthouse magazine said yesterday it’s looking to launch an initial public offering next month to raise between $50 million and $60 million — a far smaller figure than the original $460 million it hoped to raise in 2008 before the financial crisis.

The cyber-smut peddler, which also operates a stable of social-networking properties, including the X-rated Adult FriendFinder site, is scrambling to raise cash to pay down its $510 million debt load, according to sources.

The company, which announced last month it had hired Imperial Capital and Ladenburg Thalmann to underwrite the IPO, appears to be caught in a squeeze as it readies a sale of 5 million shares on May 7 priced at $10 to $12 each, sources said.

“They have a contractual obligation to the debt holders to list at any cost,” said one industry insider.

FriendFinder CEO Marc Bell — the nerdy tech genius who tried and failed last year to acquire Playboy from octogenarian porn pioneer Hugh Hefner — couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Early last year, FriendFinder shelved an IPO plan to raise as much as $220 million, with sources citing lukewarm interest.

After losing out on his Playboy bid last fall, Bell said he would focus on “three big initiatives” but didn’t give details.

A persistent problem for the deal is that it “combines niche social networking with branded erotic entertainment,” said one industry insider, who pointed out the awkward fact that FriendFinder operates the Christian-focused BigChurch.com site.

“Both assets have a place in the market and credible uses of proceeds, but they appeal to different investors and no real synergies are evident,” the source said

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