UPDATE 2-ValueClick Q4 profit beats Street; settles FTC probe

jueves 14 de febrero de 2008 00:44 CET

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By Pratish Narayanan

BANGALORE Feb 13 (Reuters) - Online advertising company ValueClick Inc VCLK.O posted a quarterly profit that beat analysts' average estimate, and said it settled a regulatory probe into its marketing practices, sending its shares up more than 7 percent in after-hours trade.

The company said it settled the U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation for $2.9 million, without admitting any liability or conceding that it violated the law. The settlement is subject to court approval.

In May, 2007, ValueClick said the FTC had started an investigation into the marketing practices related to its lead generation business. Lead generation is a process by which companies collect personal information by luring consumers with free gifts and then sell it to online advertisers.

Shares of ValueClick have sunk 28 percent since late May as the probe cast a shadow over the company's books, hurting results as some online advertisers stayed away.

The drop in ValueClick's shares due to the probe has been partially offset by takeover talk that spawned after its bigger rivals aQuantive and DoubleClick were acquired by Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Cotización) and Google Inc (GOOG.O: Cotización), respectively.

News of Microsoft's proposed takeover of Yahoo Inc YHOO.O has further stoked speculation that ValueClick could be snapped up by bigger companies operating in the Internet advertising market as they scramble to gain a firmer foothold in the lucrative business.

ValueClick's stock trades at about 26 times forward earnings, trailing the Internet Software & Services sector which is at a multiple of about 50.   Continuación...