Jon Macdonald's Christmas won't be quite as relaxing as anticipated.

In June, after more than ten years as Trade Me chief executive, he announced his intention to depart by the end of the year.

Now, with a bidding war for Trade Me complicating events, he has accepted a board request to stay on as interim CEO into the New Year.

Who ultimately succeeds him will depend on who buys the NZX/ASX-listed company.


UK private equity outfit APAX Partners made an indicative bid of $6.40 a share on November 22, valuing Trade Me at $2.54 billion - or a 25 per cent premium on its previous trading day close.

On December 5, US private equity player Hellman & Friedman but in a rival $6.45 a share bid, valuing Trade Me at $2.56b.

Craigs Investment Partners deputy head of institutional research Stephen Ridgewell described Hellman's $6.45 bid as a "tepid" increase on Apax's offer.

"The scope for further significant re-raises by private equity bidders may be limited, with the best scope for a significantly increased offer being from a potential trade buyer," he said.

China's Alibaba, which has entered other markets by buying an incumbent, is seen as a potential trade bidder.

On August 22, Trade Me said it was distributing $100m via a 22 cents per share special dividend, as the online auction company announced it turned over more than $250m for the first time to deliver a 3.9 per cent increase in net profit for the year to June 30 of $96.6m.

The company was founded by Sam Morgan in 1999.

Morgan sold it to Fairfax in 2006 for $700m. The Australian publisher, in turn, floated Trade Me in late 2011 at a $1.07b valuation.

MacDonald is one of only two people to serve as Trade Me chief executive - the other being Morgan.

Trade Me shares opened at $6.17 this morning, down 0.3 per cent.

Speculation of a trade buyer entering the fray has been balanced by conjecture that Hellman and Apax could merge their bid rather than ramp up their (so far very modest) bidding war.