j2 Global anxious for growth

Contact: Ben Kolada

Cloud communications vendor j2 Global has acquired 85-year-old media firm Ziff Davis Media for $167m, undoubtedly the biggest strategic stretch of the 40 acquisitions it has done. The announcement comes just two months after j2 was rejected in its attempt to buy online backup firm Carbonite. The rapid-fire M&A attempts, and the oddball pairing with Ziff Davis, give the impression that j2 will eagerly spend its cash to buy top-line growth.

Founded in 1927, Ziff Davis is a technology media firm, operating the websites PCMag.com, Geek.com, ExtremeTech.com, ComputerShopper.com and Toolbox.com (the latter two sites were acquired this year). It has been sliced and diced throughout its lifetime. According to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, in just the past three years Ziff Davis has done five divestitures.

Although j2 didn’t provide a clear rationale for the deal, it notes that the company has years of experience in digital media and online marketing and that this acquisition would expand that experience. It claims that its experience in this market comes from its own spending on advertising, as well as from its email marketing product, Campaigner, which j2 obtained only in December 2010 as part of its Protus IP Solutions purchase.

Reading deeper into the announcement, however, the primary rationale for this transaction seems simply to add to j2’s top line. With this acquisition, j2 expects its total revenue this year to exceed the top of its previously guided $345-365m range. Ziff Davis is expected to contribute $60m in revenue next year.

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