Celebrate Express Sold

Party Supplies and Costumes merchant Celebrate Express was sold to holding company Liberty Media for $31 million in cash, or $3.90 per share. The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to close in the third quarter.

Celebrate Express will be folded into Buyseasons.com, a costume/party Web retailer acquired by Liberty Media in 2006. Buyseasons.com is part of the Liberty Interactive Group, which includes interests in QVC.com, Provide Commerce, Backcountry.com, and IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Celebrate Express launched its first catalog, Birthday Express, in 1994. The company has since expanded its offerings to focus on birthdays and costume parties. It was profitable for the first three years, but then began to lose money: It has posted losses for eight of the nine past quarters. In April the company reported a third-quarter loss of $13.3 million.

More consolidation to come Celebrate Express declined to comment, and calls to Liberty Media were not returned. Lee Helman, managing director of New York-based investment bank Financo, says the Celebrate Express business will likely focus more on the Internet and less on the catalog going forward. “And I think they’re going to consolidate as much of it as they can.”

Chris Shannon, managing director for New York-based investment bank Berkery, Noyes & Co., also sees more consolidation in the future for the industry at large. “A lot of catalogers are having a tough time, and this is one of the things that needs to happen — some consolidation.”

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