Amid buyout rumors, Groupon keeps on, keepin’ on by Seth Weintraub @FortuneMagazine December 1, 2010, 6:46 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons Groupon releases new features in Groupon 2.0 and announces growing offices and the purchase of a startup, all while feverishly being courted by Google. Most companies in the midst of a buyout completely freeze, ceasing any big moves lest they become a hinderance to the buyout process. If Google GOOG is about to buy Groupon, they aren’t letting on. On the Groupon Blog last night, CEO Andrew Mason announced two additional features of Groupon 2.0: the Groupon Store and the Deal Feed. Both are pretty significant features that will allow much more utilization of the site by users (and make it more valuable to potential suitors). Groupon Store allows local merchants to own their own stores and publish their own deals automatically without Groupon’s intervention, making deals quicker and easier to publish. Users can “follow” stores they like and Groupon will take a relatively small 10% cut of deals placed on Groupon Stores. Merchants can now: Setup a permanent (and free!) e-commerce presence on Groupon for promoting their business. Create their own offers to run deals whenever they want. Submit deals to be promoted to Groupon subscribers through email and the Deal Feed (explained below). Get customers to follow their Groupon Store, and stay in touch by sending messages through the daily email and deal feed. The Groupon Deal Feed will aggregate nearby store deals to users via RSS in much the same way they use Twitter’s geo feeds to find out what is happening around them. Deal Feed will be integrated — into Facebook, which is interesting for a company about to be picked up by Google. Your deal feed includes your featured daily deal, deals posted by merchants you follow, and deals posted by merchants that we recommend based on what we know about you. Today, Groupon also announced the purchase of Silicon Valley-based Ludic Labs while announcing growth of their offices in the Bay area and Chicago. Ludic Labs is best known for development of local marketing services including Offer Foundry, a self-service advertising and deals platform for local businesses; and Diddit, an online community connecting millions of users with targeted local attractions and interests. Over the last decade, the team behind Ludic Labs has built some of the world’s largest Internet search and networking services. Built into the press release was this unprovoked, pre-emptive disclaimer: “Unfortunately we cannot comment on speculation or rumors about our business,” said Andrew Mason, founder and chief executive officer of Groupon, for some reason. The bigger question is why release all of this stuff now? Does Groupon think it is worth more than what Google is offering and is reaching out to other prospective suitors? It is hard to imagine Facebook or Yahoo YHOO having the liquidity to match Google’s purse. It isn’t a great fit for Apple aapl either. Microsoft msft would seem to be the only candidate with the money and the motivation to match Google’s bids. Or perhaps Groupon wants to announce their products and reward the hard work of their employees before Google starts calling the shots? Google, for its part, clearly has known about these new features/expansion/buyouts since it has to be doing due diligence ahead of a buyout.