ValueClick Rises on Buyout Rumor

NEW YORK (AP) – Shares of online advertising company ValueClick Inc. jumped for a second day Tuesday on what an analyst attributed to speculation that the company could be purchased by AOL.

ValueClick shares rose $2, or 9.1 percent, to $24 in trading. On Monday, the company's shares rose $1.52, or 7.4 percent, to finish trading at $22. During the past year, the stock has traded between $17.12 and $36.70.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Merriman Curhan Ford & Co. analyst Richard Fetyko said he heard rumors that Time Warner Inc.'s AOL LLC business is considering buying the company to boost its online advertising properties.

Fetyko thinks such a deal is unlikely.

The company is one of few publicly-traded companies in its sector that hasn't yet been gobbled up by a major technology company. In the past year, Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and WPP PLC — among others — have acquired a variety of public and private companies in the space.

The company's units include an affiliate marketing business, which could be of interest to AOL since AOL has shown interest in buying such companies, Fetyko said.

In January, AOL offered to pay about $900 million for Swedish online marketing company TradeDoubler AB. The bid failed to get the requisite amount of shareholder support, though, and AOL withdrew it in March.

But even if AOL is interested in ValueClick, the online advertising company's varied business has some overlaps with AOL's current online advertising properties and Tacoda Inc., he said.

The analyst also noted that a Federal Trade Commission investigation into ValueClick's lead generation business is creating a big overhang for the company.

“I'd be surprised if anybody made a bid until that overhang is cleared and the FTC makes a ruling (on) what is an acceptable marketing practice online with regards to lead generation,” Fetyko said.

ValueClick spokesman John Ardis said the company does not comment on rumors.