Q1 2012 Results Show ValueClick Gains Continue - Yet, Some Weakness

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Ad network ValueClick got a significant boost from two major acquisitions last year, which gave the company the wherewithal to pay down a large chunk of debt. But beyond that, the still thriving display market is what continued to lift the Westlake Village, CA.-based company, as revenues jumped 31 percent to $152.9 million, the company said in its earnings release.

The strong numbers were helped by last August’s $295 million purchase of retargeter Dotomi the $70 million April 2011 acquisition of mobile ad network Greystripe. The two additions helped round out ValueClick’s focus on affiliate marketing, in the case of the former, and the growing importance of mobile in the display space.

Still, there was some signs of weakness, executives conceded. Part of it was seasonal, part of it appeared to be reflected in the weak economy. Lastly, ValueClick said that the benefits from the two new companies that were brought into the fold still have yet to be fully realized. The company was also challenged by a double dip recession in the UK and general economic malaise in Europe also served as a drag on what was otherwise a positive quarter.

That helped give ValueClick EPS of 26 cents, two cents higher than an analysts’ consensus. The company used its income to pay down $62.5 million in debt.

During the earnings call, John Giuliani, who was promoted from president of ValueClick's Dotomi division, to COO, celebrated reaching the six-month mark by highlighting the work on an integrated affiliate marketing solution. While some new clients have been signed up, Giuliani doesn’t expect that business to contribute substantial new dollars until the second half of the year and into 2012. “We had great momentum in the display business last year and things are slow in January, and we are seeing some improvement in the second quarter,” said CEO Jim Zarley. As for TV ad budgets coming in to display, “We believe some of the integrated solutions will help accelerate that trend, but we don’t have any empirical data that it’s slowing or accelerating in this past quarter.”

Pharma and telco budgets were fairly low in Q1, particularly March, but Zarley said that those categories were picking up in April. Despite the strong growth numbers, the affiliate marketing side was also a little battered by the slow economy after a healthy holiday season.

Zarley discussed building up the sales force during Q1. “We were a little overzealous in how fast we thought they would come up, but we’re seeing a good bounce back,” Zarley told analysts. “One thing going forward, as we work on the wider product integration we may allow stuff that was pure display to become more a part of the CRM business.”

Clearly, mobile is growing faster than the PC-based web ad business, Zarley added, but the revenue expected from Greystripe is still incremental and will take time to produce significant dollars. In addition to expanding into mobile, video is another area ValueClick plans to emphasize over the next year.

Lastly, as ValueClick continues to update its offerings, its owned & operated websites segment is also undergoing some changes and will likely be a smaller part of the business as the integration of Dotomi and Greystripe becomes more important.

By David Kaplan

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