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Groupon fourth quarter off to strong start: Yipit

By Alistair Barr

(Reuters) - Groupon Inc's fourth quarter got off to a strong start in October as the largest daily deal company's growth outpaced that of its closest rival, LivingSocial, industry data tracker Yipit said on Thursday.

Groupon's gross billings totaled $176 million in October, up 22 percent from the previous month, Yipit said.

LivingSocial gross billings totaled $54.9 million in October, down 8 percent from September.

The previous month was boosted by a national deal LivingSocial did with Whole Foods Market. Excluding that, LivingSocial's gross billings would have grown 11 percent in October from the previous month, Yipit reported.

Groupon's growth in October was mainly driven by its new travel business, Groupon Getaways, which offers discount travel deals with Expedia Inc.

Groupon Getaways generated gross billings of $22 million in October, up from $8.6 million in September, Yipit estimated.

While travel offers have been a new source of growth for Groupon, the business has lower profit margins than the company's main daily deals business.

When Groupon runs local deals with merchants, the company typically keeps about 40 percent to 45 percent of the money generated by the offers, which is known as the take rate.

In contrast, the travel business has margins in the mid 20 percent range, Chief Financial Officer Jason Child said during a presentation to investors on Wednesday.

Another new Groupon business, called Groupon Goods, has margins below 20 percent, he added.

These new businesses have pressured Groupon's overall take rate, a closely watched measure. However, Child said the take rate of the company's main daily deals business has stayed steady at around 40 percent to 45 percent.

(Reporting by Alistair Barr in San Francisco; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)