Digital Media M&A


eBay Pays $945M For Bill Me Later; Buys Two Danish Sites For $390M; Cutting Staff By 10 Percent — eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) announced two acquisitions—spending over $1.3 billion altogether—this morning designed to shore up its other parts of its business in the face of declining profits and stagnant traffic at its primary online auction site. The company also finally addressed layoff rumors and said that it is indeed cutting 10 percent of its 15,000-person workforce. The company said about 1,000 full-time jobs will be affected, in addition to several hundred temporary workers and the elimination of open positions. The two acquisitions and the layoffs were summarized in a single release, with two others containing additional details.

Local Online Research Firm Kelsey Group Bought By BIA Financial Network — Kelsey Group, a Princeton-based provider of research and consultancy services in the local media space, including online (we have quoted their work many times over the years), has been acquired by Chantilly, VA-based BIA Financial Network, the financial and strategic consultancy firm for media and communications industries. Financial terms were not disclosed. Kelsey will operate under the newly formed subsidiary BIA Advisory Services, which will also include BIA Consulting and BIA Research. John Kelsey, who founded the group in 1986 with his wife Pam, will oversee conference planning and execution. More details in release.

Aegis Buys Environmental Marketing Company — Media buying and planning firm Aegis Group’s latest acquisition is a little off the beaten path. It has bought fellow London-based company Clownfish, which helps advise marketers on crafting more eco-friendly, “sustainable” initiatives. The acquisition’s terms weren’t detailed, though Aegis said Clownfish has $880,000 (£500,000) in gross assets. While the purchase would seem to have little to do with digital media, Aegis insists that it does. Clownfish will be folded into Aegis’ Isobar search ad network, as the company says it sees a clear relationship between the online and environmentally sound business practices. Overall, Aegis has been stepping up its buying activities lately. Last month it bought U.S.-based search engine marketer Range Online Media for Isobar, its sixth acquisition this year.

VeriSign Exits Mobile Content; Sells Remaining Stake In JV To News Corp For $200 Million — VeriSign’s effort to capitalize on mobile content through its acquisition of Jamba is officially over. VeriSign tried to keep skin in the game through a JV with News Corp (NYSE: NWS). selling 51 percent in May 2007 for $187.5 million and a merger with Fox Mobile Entertainment. Today, the two companies said VeriSign has sold its remaining 49 percent to News Corp for approximately $200 million, suggesting that the value of the JV, which has struggled with leadership and strategic issues, has been static at best. VeriSign’s sale has been expected for months given the company’s switch to a core focus on internet infrastructure. VeriSign acquired German mobile content company Jamba in 2004 for $273 million.

Monster Acquires Remaining 55 Percent Of ChinaHR For $174 Million — Monster.com has full ownership now of major Chinese recruitment site ChinaHR.com, spending $178 million on the 55 percent it did not already own. Monster acquired 40 percent in 2005 for $50 million with a promise that it could get the remainder if ChinaHR failed to do an IPO within three years, according to TradingMarkets.com. As recently as mid-September, ChinaHR president Zhang Jianguo held out hope that the company would finish its IPO plan before year’s end. The acquisition gives Monster a major presence in online recruiting in Asia as well as China. Monster moved quickly to put its stamp on the company, appointing Edward Lo, EVP, Monster Greater China, as interim CEO of ChinaHR; he’ll keep his Monster regional duties as well. But it’s far from a slam dunk. As TradingMarkets.com notes, China’s growth is slowing and the sites face challenges from smaller companies, more localized companies with less overhead.

TNS’ Saga Nears Its Close, As WPP Declares Victory — WPP Group says it’s ready to close the deal for its $2 billion (£1.14 billion) takeover of TNS Media Intelligence, having received the support of 82 percent of the audience researcher’s shareholders, Reuters reports. The is now unconditional, though the extended offer period for further acceptances is open until Oct. 22. WPP will no longer offer the option to mix and match the share to cash ratio, however. As more shareholders shifted their support to WPP over the past week, TNS finally dropped its opposition to the deal on Monday, though it continued to maintain the WPP’s bid undervalued the company. Executives at the UK media measurement firm said they were in an untenable position, as continued attempts to block the takeover would have left TNS investors holding on to a minority interest in an unlisted company.

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