Commentcamarche acquires Benchmark Group, France is on a roll

Apparently today the French equivalent of Black Friday for the local hi-tech market – everyone’s out on a shopping spree. Ok, that’s perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but still.  After Liligo’s acquisition by for some 20-30 million euros this morning, online publisher Commentcamarche announced that it is acquiring French Benchmark Group. Together, the two companies plan to give life to a top-tier media group, which should rank within the top 5 French online publishers.

For the moment, the amount of the transaction has not officially been disclosed but some sites, including CF News, have said that it could be in 60 million euro ball park – which is double the amount that Liligo went for. Yet, for now, it’s all just a Twitter rumor.

Founded in 1999, Commentcamarche relies on a “social knowledge” model and its community to provide the 38 million monthly unique visitors with information on everything from health to legal advice from the community. While it initially launched for the hi-tech market only, it began expanding into other verticals as of 2008.

Commentcamarche currently ranks as the 77th group worldwide in terms of its audience and the addition of Benchmark Group (who owns various French media sites including Journal du Net, Journal des Femmes, l’Internaute and the “French Facebook” Copains d’Avant) should add an additional 15 million monthly uniques. Combined, their audience is roughly 2x that of Overblog and Wikio, who joined forces earlier this month. Just like Liligo and the online travel market, seems online media in France is going through a bit of consolidation as well.

The new entity will employ some 175 people and be directed by Commentcamarche’s CEO, Benoît Sillard. I really don’t want to speak to soon but could it be that French companies are waking up and realizing that French exit market needs a bit of a kick? Honestly, France’s ecosystem has gone through a lot of transformation and there is VC money to be had. But VCs will continue to be reticent as investors if the exit market doesn’t pick-up a bit. Some companies, like PriceMinister, have recently sold to foreign companies – because as a general rule of thumb, French companies are hesitant acquirers. Deezer’s Jonathan Benassaya touched upon this at the Paris Founder’s Conference last week as one of the missing puzzle pieces in the French market.

Well, at least that’s 2 acquisitions for today. Hopefully France can keep this up.