Criteo Shares Jump on Report of Acquisition Talks With Publicis

Criteo SA, the web-advertising company that went public last year, rose as much as 19.6 percent in Nasdaq Stock Market trading after a newspaper report that Publicis Groupe SA may be close to a deal to acquire the company.

Publicis started talks to buy the Paris-based agency three months ago and the negotiations could be concluded in coming days, Les Echos reported today, without saying where it got its information. Spokeswomen from Publicis and Criteo declined to comment.

Publicis Chief Executive Officer Maurice Levy has said that his company is planning smaller acquisitions after it abandoned a $35 billion merger with New York-based Omnicom Group Inc. this year. Criteo had an enterprise value of 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Advertising agencies including Publicis and the world’s largest WPP Plc are looking to the digital segment to fuel growth, as revenue in some European and even emerging countries fell short of expectations amid weakened economies. Publicis’s digital operations accounted for 41 percent of its sales in the first half of 2014, up from 37 percent a year earlier.

Criteo, started in 2005, tracks user activity on websites to help advertisers target potential customers. The software is designed to spot hesitant shoppers online and send them tailored banner ads. Criteo reported revenue of 444 million euros last year, up 63 percent from a year earlier.

Criteo was up 19.4 percent to $36.59 at 9:35 a.m. New York time. The stock had declined 10 percent this year before today. The company priced its American Depository Shares at $31 each in October. Publicis, down 14 percent through yesterday, fell 1.4 percent to 56.23 euros in Paris.

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