AOL / TradeDoubler

AOL, the internet subsidiary of Time Warner, the US media group, on Monday made a recommended SKr6.3bn (£460m, $900m, €695m) cash offer for TradeDoubler, the listed Swedish online marketing group.

The SKr215 a share offer – a 20 per cent premium to the average TradeDoubler share over the preceding three months – reflects AOL's drive to bolster its European advertising business following the sale of its internet access operations in markets such as the UK.

It comes as AOL has restructured in most of its markets to become a more advertising-led business, competing with the likes of Yahoo and Google in the growing web marketing sector.

AOL sold its UK access unit to Carphone Warehouse , the retailer and telecommunications group, for £370m cash last October.

TradeDoubler's biggest market is the UK, where it has benefited from rapid adoption of online advertising by marketers. It also operates in France and Germany as well as the Nordic regions and other parts of Europe.

The group, which numbers BT and Asda among its customers, is best known for running affiliate marketing programmes in which websites get paid for passing traffic on to third parties.

In its third-quarter filing, TradeDoubler reported a 54 per cent rise in revenues to SKr427m and an operating profit of SKr47m, up from SKr19m in the same period of 2005.

Following press speculation in December, it confirmed it had been in talks with different parties over possible transactions.

Time Warner believes the acquisition will complement Advertising.com, the AOL-owned company which runs an online advertising network for publishers and advertisers.

The TradeDoubler board has recommended AOL's offer. Some 20 per cent of the Swedish group's shareholders, including Arctic Ventures, its biggest investor, have also given irrevocable undertakings to accept the offer. The acceptance period runs until February 19.

(c) 2007 Financial Times


Meetic / Dating Direct

DatingDirect.com, which grew to be one of the UK's lasting successes of the dotcom boom, is to be sold to Meetic, the pan-European dating website, in a deal worth £27.3m.

The company, which was set up by internet entrepreneurs Darren Richards and Andrew Pike in 1999, has undergone substantial growth over the last eight years, increasing its membership from an initial 40,000 to more than 4.5m.

Meetic, one of Europe's most popular dating websites according to Nielsen/NetRatings, has operations in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

DatingDirect has extended its service through a number of third-party deals with major media companies. Most recently, it signed a deal with Trinity Mirror to provide dating services through the online editions of the Daily Mirror, The People and the Daily Record.

Previous deals DatingDirect.com has signed include ones with iVillage.co.uk, AOL, ITV.com and Channel 4. It is ranked as the number one personals site in the UK by Nielsen/NetRatings.

(c) DigitalBulletin


Google / Xunlei

Google, the US-based search engine, has taken a stake in Xunlei Network Technology (Thunder) for as much as USD 20m, reported Mingpao Daily News and Hong Kong Economic Journal.

The report in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, citing an announcement from Google, said that the company has taken a stake in Xunlei, a downloading service company based in China. However, both companies had not revealed the financial details of the deal, the report said. It added that Xunlei has more than 120 million users so far.

The Mingpao Daily News report said that Google has taken the stake in Xunlei together with Ceyuan Ventures, an investment company in Shanghai. The deal value is estimated to be as much as USD 20m, according to the report. The report, citing an unnamed China-based media, further said that Google invested USD 5m while Ceyuan Ventures invested 15m in Xunlei. An analyst was also cited as saying that Google hopes to gain the promoting channels in China through the sharing of software with Xunlei. It also said that the turnover of Xunlei in 2005 was more than CNY 100.

(c) MergerMarket.com


Cisco / IronPort Systems

Cisco Systems said Thursday that it has agreed to pay $830 million in cash and stock to acquire privately held IronPort Systems, a maker of anti-spam and anti-virus security products.

The deal is the latest in the quickly consolidating security-software market. Microsoft, Symantec and others have scooped up smaller firms so they can offer comprehensive consumer packages amid a wave of computer viruses, spam and phishing scams.

It also highlights Cisco's efforts to shed its image as solely a maker of networking infrastructure gear and capitalize on products and services that utilize the network itself, analysts say.

Cisco, which makes the routers, switches and other devices used to link networks and direct traffic on the Internet, has established itself in the network security arena. Cisco executives say they are keenly interested in entering the $2 billion-plus messaging security market.

The deal also allows IronPort to compete better with larger rivals such as Symantec and SOPHOS, Weiss said.

Cisco says it plans to retain virtually all of IronPort's 408 employees and keep its headquarters in San Bruno, Calif.

The acquisition allows Cisco to use data gathered by IronPort's technology and stop threats such as spam and computer viruses before they can reach a company's computer system.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of fiscal 2007.

It is the second mega-deal involving a security start-up in recent months. In July, Secure Computing acquired CipherTrust for $273 million.

(c) USAToday.com

Iberostar / Viajar.com

Viajar.com, the Spanish travel internet portal unit owned by Deutsche Telekom's Spanish subsidiary Ya.com, has been acquired by Iberostar, reported Expansion.

The deal is valued at EUR 17m but includes a commitment to contract Ya.com services worth EUR 3m. The report cited Iberostar sources who explained that the company wanted to focus its attention on the Internet as it was one of the motors driving sector growth.

The report said that Iberostar has been renamed Orizonia [after it was acquired by the private equity firms Carlyle (60%) and Vista Capital (35%), and by a team of directors (5%) in July 2005].
(c) MergerMarket.com


CheckFree / Carreker

CheckFree, a listed Georgia e-commerce service provider, said it entered into a definitive agreement to purchase Carreker, a listed Texas payments technology provider.

The deal will expand CheckFree's software business and consulting expertise. Under the terms of the agreement, CheckFree will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Carreker common stock at a price of USD 8.05 per share, for a total purchase price of USD 206m on a fully diluted basis. Through this acquisition, CheckFree will expand its presence in payments processing to play a leading role in providing processing and risk management capabilities for ACH, check and cash. It will also become a leading provider of solutions and expert consultancy for the convergence of check and electronic payments.

Carreker is also a consulting services company for the financial services industry. The company has more than 250 clients in the US, UK, Ireland, Continental Europe, South America, and Australia. It reported revenues of USD 116.6m in fiscal 2005.

The proposed acquisition is subject to regulatory review, Carreker shareholder approval, and other customary closing conditions, and is expected to close by March 31, 2007.

CheckFree will finance the transaction with a combination of existing cash balances and revolving debt, although there are no financing contingencies in the merger agreement. The transaction is expected to be modestly dilutive to CheckFree's underlying earnings per share in the current fiscal year (ending June 30, 2007) and in fiscal 2008, and dilutive to GAAP earnings per share in each of 2007 and 2008. The company plans to share specific financial details when the transaction closes.

(c) MergerMarket.com


PartyGaming / Empire Online & Intercontinental Online Gaming

Listed online gaming firm PartyGaming Plc has announced the acquisition of businesses and assets from both Empire Online [EOL] and Intercontinental Online Gaming in a deal worth USD 66.3m combined.

From the former, PartyGaming is acquiring the assets, players and gaming related contracts associated with Empire Online's gaming business; from the latter it is acquiring all of its business and assets. Neither EOL nor Intercontinental accept bets from customers in the United States.

Both deals will be financed by the issue of 115,193,842 new PartyGaming shares. In a statement today, PartyGaming said it expects the businesses and assets being acquired to generate clean EBITDA of at least USD 8.5m, comprising USD 6.0m from EOL and USD 2.5m from Intercontinental, and to be earnings enhancing in 2007.

Online gaming websites operated by EOL and Intercontinental that are being acquired by PartyGaming include: NoblePoker.com, Clubdicecasino.com, EnterCasino.com, MissBingo.com, FairPoker.com, and MagicBoxCasino.com. Subject to completion a software licensing agreement will also be entered into with Playtech, which hosts the sites being acquired from EOL and Intercontinental.

(c) MergerMarket