Let's Make a Deal

It must be something in the air. Spring is shaping up as mating season for media companies with a wave of big deals including Thomson Corp.’s  $17 billion merger with Reuters Group and a trio of online ad network acquisitions including Google’s purchase of DoubleClick ($3.1 billion), Yahoo’s buyout of Right Media ($680 million) and WPP Group’s $650 million deal for 24/7 Real Media. On a smaller scale, Web audience research firm Hitwise was picked up by Experian for a mere $240 million, and AOL absorbed mobile ad network Third Screen Media for an undisclosed amount.

Then there’s the outbreak of speculation surrounding mega-deals such as a Microsoft-Yahoo merger and News Corp.’s $5 billion offer for Dow Jones.

The Microsoft-Yahoo talks have reportedly broken off and the Bancroft family, which owns controlling shares in Dow Jones, has so far rebuffed Rupert Murdoch’s $60-a-share offering.

Even so, second quarter M&A activity in the sector is already on pace to top the first quarter’s $12.8 billion total, according to Tolman Geffs, managing director at The Jordan, Edmiston Group, a media industry-focused investment bank. Whether the first half of 2007 can eclipse the $37 billion in transactions for the same period last year, however, remains to be seen, says Geffs. But it’s looking more possible each day.

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