Exclusive-Starboard built stake in website development platform Wix -sources

NEW YORK : Activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP has amassed an approximately 9 per cent stake in Wix.com Ltd and has spoken to the web development platform about how it can improve its operations, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Wix has been struggling with losses since the fourth quarter of 2021 amid a slowdown in e-commerce driven by rampant inflation and people making fewer purchases online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has adopted a three-year cost-cutting program in a bid to boost its ailing stock price.

Starboard supports Wix’s bid to become profitable and believes the company has a significant opportunity to improve its margins and grow further, the sources said.

The fund has been discussing its ideas with Wix’s management and is not seeking board seats at this time, the sources added. Details of Starboard’s suggestions to Wix could not be learned.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Wix and Starboard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wix, an Israel-based company whose stock is listed in the United States, has a market value of roughly $4.4 billion. Its shares have lost 54 per cent of their value this year on concerns about clients not paying enough for its products. The company posted a loss for the three months to the end of June of $111.2 million, compared to a $37.6 million profit in the corresponding period in 2021.

Wix had 222 million registered users worldwide using its website development tools, many of them for free, as of the end of December. Out of those, only 6 million had premium subscriptions.

Wix has announced cost cuts it projects will save $150 million a year and grow its profit margins. The company also authorized a $500-million share buyback program.

Starboard, which is led by Jeff Smith, is one of the industry’s most prominent activist investors and is widely known for its operational expertise. It is also an investor in another website development services company, GoDaddy Inc, where it amassed a stake last year.

The hedge fund has not made any public filings where an investor must notify U.S. securities regulators when they own 5 per cent or more of a company.

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