Online dating is an increasingly popular way of seeking out partners, with the industry generating almost £200m for the UK economy last year
Online dating is an increasingly popular way of finding partners; the industry generated almost £200m for the UK economy last year

One of the UK's biggest online dating firms could be in line for a £40 million pay-out after selling its casual sex websites.

The company, said dating sites such as benaughty.cok,, and have attracted a number of potential buyers.

The Edinburgh-based firm whose sites have been used by 19 million people in the past year, wants to focus its business on more "niche services".

This includes and

One of the favourites tipped to buy up - which made £2.5 million in profit in the last six months - is US giant hit the headlines earlier this year with allegations that their staff were posting fake messages to lure gullible men.

Joining the websites is free, but subscription starts when users reply to a message, and there were suspicions that Cupid staff were involved, replying to messages rather than genuine users.

The group strongly denied the allegations.

The company then introduced "clearer guidelines for staff interaction with customers" after the rumours sparked a 57% crash in the share price.

Boss George Elliot told the Sun: "This should help to detect any issues."

The company offers several online dating services depending on whether users are seeking serious relationships or something more casual. It markets to people of different age groups, cultures and social interests, from its mature relationship website to its cheeky

Cupid also has smartphone applications, which helps users find other single people at nearby locations.

Active users for Cupid's services rose 18% to 19.2% in 2012 from the year earlier, according to Reuters. Its major markets are the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland, which contribute over half its profit.

Marketing expenses are the largest cost for Cupid, which has been looking to build a stronger brand identity for its key products and expand in countries such as India and Brazil.

Online dating is an increasingly popular way of seeking out partners for relationships, with the industry generating almost £200m for the UK economy last year. Globally, it is estimated that the industry is worth more than £2bn, according to the Telegraph.

Recent surveys suggest that one in five relationships in the UK starts online and research earlier this month suggested that marriages which began on the internet stood a greater chance of success than those that began in the "real world".

There are a growing number of smaller, more narrowly focused niche sites catering to everything from uniform lovers to cat lovers. Geek2Geek, for technophiles, was recently voted's best niche dating site of 2012.