For Vocus, a costly step into a new market

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even though Vocus got pummeled on Wall Street Wednesday after it announced the largest acquisition in the company’s history, the rationale for the purchase of iContact is fairly sound. (As it announced its Q4 results, Vocus also said it would basically be cleaning out its treasury to cover the iContact purchase. The deal helped to push shares of the PR management software vendor down 40% to their lowest level since early 2009.)

But adding iContact to the Vocus portfolio at least gets the company into the faster-growing market of email marketing. Consider the relative growth rates on the two sides of the deal: Vocus increased revenue 19% to $115m in 2011, while iContact’s sales grew 25%. Granted, iContact is growing off a smaller base, but a quick look around the rest of the industry also shows that email marketing is outstripping Vocus’ core business.

For instance, Emailvision, which is only slightly smaller than Vocus, grew 55% to $90m in sales last year. (The European email marketing vendor went private in mid-2010.) Meanwhile, ExactTarget and Constant Contact outgrew Vocus in 2011, even though they are nearly twice as big. In fact, ExactTarget posted a stunning 54% growth rate last year, which pushed sales to $207m. We understand that snappy rate is likely to come up next week as ExactTarget gets ready to hit the public market. ExactTarget filed its IPO paperwork only late last November.

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