NetCreations Shareholders OK Acquisition

Following a shareholder meeting Thursday, e-mail marketer NetCreations approved its merger with Italian yellow pages publisher and ISP SEAT Pagine Gialle — ending months of speculation about the fate of the New York-based firm.

Through the acquisition, NetCreations has been merged with Sogerim, S.A., an affiliate of SPG. Sogerim will contribute NetCreations’ shares to SPG sometime during the next few months, making NetCreations a wholly owned subsidiary of the Milan-based company.

Spokespeople from the companies said they believed the merger creates a transatlantic database and information-marketing “powerhouse.”

SPG, one of the world’s largest telephone directory publishers, recently acquired a majority stake in France’s Consodata, a European provider of business-to-consumer marketing information, including e-mail marketing services. That acquisition, plus the merger with NetCreations and SPG’s own yellow pages publishing, creates a broad offering of online and offline services in marketing information on both sides of the Atlantic, said SPG spokespeople.

“Our acquisition of NetCreations is consistent with our international strategy to become a leading provider of business-to-consumer marketing information,” said Lorenzo Pellicioli, SPG’s chief executive officer. “We look forward to working with NetCreations’ current management team to grow our information marketing capabilities in the U.S. and on a global basis.”

SPG also owns Italian ISP and search engine/portal Virgilio, which it could foreseeably use in conjunction with NetCreations to boost the collection of opt-in e-mail addresses.

“This combination represents a unique opportunity to join the technology, products and experience of two marketing industry leaders,” said NetCreations chief executive officer Rosalind Resnick. “Our partners and clients will benefit from the expertise, global sales force and international reach of both SEAT Pagine Gialle and Consodata as we continue to build the world leader in information marketing.”

The acquisition is closing less than two months after New York-based NetCreations was wooed away from Alley-based ad network and technology firm DoubleClick.

SPG topped DoubleClick’s stock-and-cash offer with a promise of $7.00 per share in cash for each share of NTCR, or about $111 million. DoubleClick’s original $191 million proposal, made in October, had lost much of its original value, due to a decline in the firm’s stock price — at the time of SPG’s counter offer in December, DoubleClick would have actually been paying NetCreations less than the stock’s price.

Now, the only questions that remain concern DoubleClick’s e-mail marketing strategy. When DoubleClick declined to match SPG’s offer, executives at the ad network said the abandonment of the merger actually was for the best — since they felt that the e-mail marketer’s performance after the initial merger agreement hadn’t lived up to expectations.

The offer to buy NetCreations had made sense for DoubleClick, in that it would expand its e-mail marketing capabilities — an area in which it lagged behind competitors, like 24/7 Media. At the time of the proposed merger, DoubleClick said it anticipated having 22 million e-mail addresses, with NetCreations contributing 15 million of those addresses.

While DoubleClick’s executives said during their last investor conference call that they felt comfortable with their position in the e-mail space, some financial analysts believe that DoubleClick is considering an acquisition: currently, DoubleClick has about 14 million opt-in e-mail names — while NetCreations spokespeople had said their firm has about 26 million double-opt-in e-mail addresses.

And with some $870 million in cash and marketable securities, DoubleClick certainly has the capacity to do some shopping among competitors — especially since most competitors’ valuations have shrunk staggeringly in re

cent months. One of these, 24/7 Media, has a current market cap of around $25 million — and has more than 25 million addresses.

* Christopher Saunders is an associate editor with Internet Advertising Report, an sister site.

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