Now we know: Alterian buys Mediasurface

Mediasurface announced there was an acquisition in the works, we just didn’t know who the acquirer would be. But word came on Friday that it is fellow UK-based Alterian, a provider of email, database and operational marketing tools.

So it’s another step in the direction of WCM becoming a key component of online marketing. Though, as Tony Byrne rightly points out, not all WCM deployments are for marketing purposes. And I would say Mediasurface in particular has not been as focused on marketing as some competitors.

It will be interesting to watch as this one shakes out. Alterian is a more profitable company than Mediasurface, particularly as Mediasurface has struggled with losses of late. It also has a stronger presence in North American, something Mediasurface has failed to attain.

Alterian doesn’t have a direct sales force though and is sold almost entirely via its channel partners. These partners could help bring Mediasurface to more geos, but at the high-end where the flagship Morello product from Mediasurface plays, WCM sales can be long and not typically entirely channel based. Mediasurface also has not one but three WCM products in its portfolio and Alterian will have to determine where best to focus its efforts if it’s looking at an ‘integrated suite.’

Who might be after Mediasurface?

Tony Byrne picked up on this statement from Mediasurface that “notes the recent share price and announces that it has received a preliminary approach, which may or may not lead to an offer for the Company.”

The statement goes on to say that “The approach has been received from a UK company that does not compete directly with Mediasurface and the Directors expect that regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the services that Mediasurface provides to existing and future customers will be unaffected.”

What UK company that does not compete directly with Mediasurface might be interested in acquiring it? SDL already took Tridion, a decision it is no doubt happy with given Tridion’s 2007 financial results. Autonomy is the only other company that comes to mind, as a substantial UK-based player in the information management realm, without WCM we might add. WCM doesn’t seem a logical fit for Autonomy’s current portfolio though, which has certainly grown with its 2007 acquisitions of Zantaz and Meridio. These are pretty clear cut compliance / e-discovery related buys without explicit ties to WCM.

So maybe it is an SI or design agency looking to own the delivery technology itself. Mediasurface has checked boxes at the low, mid-market, and high end in WCM, in part by acquiring fellow UK-based WCM play Immediacy in June of last year and Silverbullet out of Holland back in 2005.

Mediasurface may not be the most attractive candidate at the moment, as it had a difficult fiscal 2007 reporting an EBITDA loss of £1.3m on revenues of £11.6m. Losses were blamed on the low-end Pepperio service and market difficulty for the high-end product Morello in the financial services industry and in accounts using Microsoft SharePoint. The company’s stock tumbled on that news to 4p per share, but has been up in April based on acquisition rumors.

Growth in WCM remains strong overall though (451 clients can read analysis of sector growth rates across vendors here) and there are still too many independent players with revenues in the $20m-ish range. More consolidation certainly seems likely.