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Acquisitive vs. Organic Growth

September 13th, 2010 8:07PM by Brendon Kensel

Digital media and marketing companies have slogged through the recession and are now hoping to see a rebound in 2011. While there is still macro-economic uncertainty, trends in the digital media and marketing sectors are moving in the right direction. Next year marketing expenditures on digital and online media in the U.S. is expected to surpass the marketing budget allocated to print for the first time.

As senior executives at digital media and marketing companies begin to plan their corporate strategy for 2011 many are trying to determine the right growth strategy — acquisitive or organic. Many CEO’s are now recognizing that their optimal corporate growth strategy will likely include a combination of acquisitive and organic growth. While most companies in the media and marketing sectors have been growing organically, now may be a good time to accelerate growth through acquisitions.

Successful corporate strategies incorporate organic growth fostered by the pursuit of operational and financial strategies along with select acquisitions that dovetail to the company’s key strengths. Executives that decide to pursue acquisitions should be able to identify the strategic reasons why they want to acquire a particular target.

The primary drivers of an acquisition typically include one or more of the following: a) acquire new distribution channel/customers; b) acquire key technology; c) expand or add a product line; d) gain executive/technical/creative talent; e) gain expertise and entry in a new market; f) gain a time-to-market advantage; and/or g) increase profitability.

Ultimately, acquisitions are made because companies believe it is a more effective means of meeting a strategic need and increasing shareholder value than organic growth. While any of the above attribute will enhance value, capturing proprietary technology or products with a significant competitive advantage, or gaining market leadership in a fast-growing market segment can dramatically enhance value. The merger and acquisition market in the media and marketing services sector has been brisk this year. Recent examples include:

In June GSI Commerce (NASDAQ: GSIC) acquired FetchBack, an advertising startup that specialized in retargeting, for about $40 million according to reports. This acquisition is very complimentary to GSI’s other marketing service offerings since retargeting will allow GSI to drive customers back to their clients’ websites.

Broadcaster and publisher Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP) acquired mobile agency The Hyperfactory in July. This acquisition provides Meredith with a strong mobile foothold and enhances its marketing services group.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) acquired social applications developer Slide for $182 million in August. The acquisition gives Google a seasoned team that knows social, something Google is working diligently to get right.

This month blog network Glam Media acquired German men’s online media company Fantastic Zero. This acquisition expands Glam’s efforts to reach males and will help broaden its overall demographic and geographic reach.

To further fuel your creative M&A juices check additional deals at CruchBase.

Strategic Buyers will lead M&A Activity in 2010

January 30th, 2010 3:12PM by Brendon Kensel
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Source: Dow Jones VentureSource

The M&A market the past twelve-months has been weak, but strategic buyers will likely lead an increase in deal activity in 2010. Financial buyers have continued to be challenged with the lack of credit availability while many potential strategic buyers are sitting on cash or have some access to existing lines of credit. We saw an increase in M&A activity in Q4 2009, but I expect deal makers to very creative this year to get deals done.

Since the economic crisis began many firms have streamlined operations and increased their cash positions. This improvement in financial health is expected to produce an increase in mergers and acquisitions as firms try to kick-start their growth.

While venture-backed companies may seek an IPO exit in 2010, I expect strategic buyers to emerge as the more likely exit. According to Dow Jones VentureSource there are 25 venture-backed companies currently in IPO registration, but there were 86 M&A transactions in Q4 2009 generating $7.3 billion. Amazon.com’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) $847 million purchase of Zappos.com was the largest deal of Q4 2009.

Mergers and acquisitions are off to a brisk start in Q1 2010 with several transactions in the media and marketing sectors. A few deals follow: Dentsu, Japan’s largest ad agency, acquired Innovation Interactive, the parent of digital ad shop 360i; AOL (NYSE: AOL) acquired StudioNow, an online platform for content creation and distribution, for $36.5 million in cash and stock; and LivePerson acquired web analytics company NuConomy for $3 million.

I contacted Alexander Haislip, senior writer at Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal and a columnist for Private Equity Hub, to get his point-of-view on the M&A outlook for 2010, particularly in the cleantech sector. “There’s a great opportunity for innovation in the cleantech M&A where startups license their technology to big manufacturers who can put it directly into production,” commented Mr. Haislip. “Project financing for cleantech is way off levels we saw just a few years before and it is harder for ever for entrepreneurs to connect with expansion capital. Investors may find their best hope for at least partial liquidity in 2010 is through licensing. That’ll mean tangoing with the likes of The ABB Group (NYSE: ABB), GE (NYSE: GE), First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR), and a host of other biggies that have yet to make their intentions known.”