With Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) paying $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, Wall Street investors are going to take a second look at aQuantive Inc. (NASDAQ: AQNT) and ValueClick Inc (NASDAQ: VCLK) as possibly the next acquisitions in the Internet marketing and advertising space.
DoubleClick was taken private just a couple of years ago at $1.1 billion. With the $3.1 billion price tag Google is paying, it's no wonder that ValueClick and aQuantive were both up a good 5% in after-market trading on Friday. The valuation explosion is almost geometrical.
Microsoft Corp.(NASDAQ: MSFT) is now behind the eight ball. The whole internet advertising, marketing and lead-generation space has become an art and a science unto itself. DoubleClick, ValueClick and aQuantive all have their own areas of expertise and proprietary technology. These three companies are the recognized leaders in the sector. The sector was validated these past three years in a serious way as major Fortune 500 companies have decided to dedicate more of their advertising and marketing resources online.
When Procter and Gamble Co.(NYSE: PG), the world's largest marketer, made its announcement in 2005--2006 to move big resources to the internet, the other Fortune 500 took immediate notice. The internet requires a different touch than traditional advertising mediums. Legacy advertising agencies can offer the services, but with off -the-shelf technologies they find themselves in catch-up mode to aQuantive and ValueClick.
The growth rates for both companies has been solidly over 35-40% these past 4-5 years. The sustainable growth rate going forward looks to be in the 30%+ range. Both companies do bump into each other in the competitive arena, but there is so much business to win that head-to head competition has not caused one to miss a quarter or adjust revenues and earnings down. The world is truly their oysters.
aQuantive could be attractive for Microsoft. Both companies are headquartered in the Seattle, Washington area. Microsoft has to determine if its worth the research and development investment and time needed to now catch Google. The other solution would be to pay-up for an aQuantive, say $4-5 billion at least, and accelerate their presence in the internet marketing space. Its shares will likely continue to trade up this week as speculation about this possibility is further discussed and dissected.
Both companies now sit in the drivers' seat as their core, base business is very strong and with Google's acquisition, the sector is being notched up to another valuation level. The next couple of months could prove very entertaining if Microsoft does get serious and offers to buy one of these two well-run companies....stay tuned...
Georges Yared is the CIO of Yared Investment Research.