Criteo Could Become Next M&A Target As It Prepares To Launch Search Platform

Criteo is preparing to roll out a search platform this year, although the company has been deemed a potential acquisition target.

Pacific Crest Securities Senior Research Analyst Evan Wilson wrote in a research note that he believes "the most likely acquisition would be Criteo, which has a wide number of potential acquirers and a differentiated data set." The prediction was made in a LinkedIn research note in reference to possible future industry acquisitions.

Criteo, however, has its hands full. The company is preparing to launch a search platform as it looks for marketers to join the team.

During Criteo's first-quarter 2016 earnings report in May, JP Morgan Analyst Doug Anmuth asked the company's CEO, Eric Eichmann, for more details around its search strategy. Eichmann said: "In terms of product innovations, as you know, we are still in proof of concept stage," but said he expects to release more information later this year, "either positive or negative."



Eichmann said the overall concept of bringing performance to search by using people-based data or browsing remains a top priority, and is very real because it has "potential." Criteo made a name for itself in search retargeting, but began working to build out its platform after acquiring DataPop in February 2015.

A report published in May 2016 by RBC Capital Markets suggests that Criteo exceeded $1.5 billion in ad spend in 2015, "providing search-like ROI for display ads by leveraging direct relationships with advertisers/publishers and user/transaction data."

Search-like ROI for display, per the RBC Capital report, but what if Criteo brought that "search-like ROI for display back into search, similar to the way cClearly Founder Oren Netzer did?

And there's more. Criteo also recently filed a lawsuit against U.S.-based performance marketing competitor SteelHouse, claiming that it undercuts its business and steals potential clients by counterfeiting clicks, which often happens seconds after legitimate clicks are attributed to the France-based company.

"SteelHouse exploited its manipulation of these key performance metrics by falsely advertising that it consistently outperformed Criteo in head-to-head comparisons in order to divert business to SteelHouse,” per one report, citing the lawsuit.

Perhaps the industry must take a wait-and-see approach. More acquisitions and search technology to come -- and some will come from unexpected participants.

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