Google Exploring Groupon Buyout

Google is in negotiations with group shopping startup Groupon over a possible buyout, according to a report Friday.

The asking price is well above the $2-3 billion rumored to have been offered by Yahoo earlier this year, according to sources cited by Kara Swisher, co-editor of Wall Street Journal-owned Negotiations are apparently in the early stages, and both Google and Groupon refused to comment on what Google’s spokesperson called “rumor” and “speculation.”

The Chicago-based Groupon serves up steep daily discounts from local businesses that can only be redeemed if a certain number of users opt in to them. Since its launch in 2008, the wildly popular Groupon has attracted $170 million in venture funding, and expanded its business into Europe, Asia and South America. In its last round of funding back in April, Russian VC firm Digital Sky Technologies and California-based Battery Ventures valued the company at around $1.35 billion.

Groupon says that customers have purchased almost $17 million “Groupons” since 2008, and offered discounts totaling $725 million. The service has continued to outpace competitors and expand, despite criticism of its business model.

The company introduced mobile applications in March, and has also explored deals with newspaper publishers who are hunting for ways to replace shrinking classified ad revenue.