buying Indy’s ExactTarget in $2.5B deal

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San Francisco-based said Tuesday morning that it is acquiring ExactTarget Inc.for $2.5 billion in cash.

The purchase price is $33.75 per share—a whopping 53-percent premium to where ExactTarget shares closed Monday.

The tech industry has been buzzing for weeks that Indianapolis-based ExactTarget would be purchased by a larger company that wanted to bolster its digital marketing platforms. An analyst told IBJ in March that Salesforce was the front-runner.

“Salesforce needs a strong email marketing capability, and they don’t have that right now,” said Nathan Schneiderman, a senior research analyst for Roth Capital Partners of Newport Beach, Calif., said at the time.

The deal caps a meteoric rise for ExactTarget, which was founded in 2000 and went public last year. ExactTarget employs 1,800, most of them in downtown Indianapolis.

The company started as a permission-based email marketer and remains a leader in that field. But over the last two years, it has broadened its marketing offerings beyond email to help clients bond with customers through mobile, social media and websites.

To help establish itself as a one-stop shop for marketing technology needs, ExactTarget last fall made two major acqusitions. It paid $96 million for Atlanta-based Pardot LLC, broadening its reach into business-to-business digital marketing, and $21 million for Carmel-based iGoDigital, which helps companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart recommend products to customers based on their personal information, their previous buying habits and their online queries.

ExactTarget co-founder and CEO Scott Dorsey said the sale to Salesforce, the largest customer-relationship-management software company in the world, will accelerate ExactTarget's expansion.

"ExactTarget's mission is to revolutionize how businesses connect with their consumers using data-driven digital marketing across all channels," Dorsey said in a statement. "'s tremendous strength in social marketing, along with its leadership position in sales and service, not only will accelerate this vision, but also provide our customers with a powerful, integrated CRM platform to transform their end-to-end customer experience."

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said the purchase positions his company to capitalize as business clients ramp up their marketing spending. By 2017, he said, spending by chief marketing officers is expected to surpass spending by chief information officers.

"The addition of ExactTarget makes Salesforce the starting place for every company and puts Salesforce in the pole position to capture this opportunity," he said in a statement.

ExactTarget shares are in for a big boost Tuesday. In morning pre-market trading, shares already had risen nearly 53 percent to $33.73—almost exactly the price promised to pay per share in the acquisition deal. The share price hovered at that level through mid-morning.

Shares of Salesforce had slipped by about 3 percent by mid-morning to $39.73.

Salesforce has spent at least $4 billion over five years on more than acquisition 40 deals, including ExactTarget as well as social-media marketing firms Buddy Media Inc. and Radian6 Technologies Inc. Benioff’s push into marketing software has been slow to take hold, Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS AG, said last month, when Salesforce forecast quarterly profit and sales that missed analysts’ estimates.

“We couldn’t just keep making these small acquisitions—that strategy was taking, honestly, too long,” Benioff said Tuesday on a conference call. Benioff said that he now plans to take a break from doing deals for the next 12 to 18 months.

ExactTarget hasn’t reported a profit since 2008 and is forecast to post losses this year and next, the company’s revenue has increased every year since at least 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“This is an excellent move and fit for, and we consider the price paid reasonable given ExactTarget’s leading market position and growth profile,” Nathan Schneiderman, an analyst at Roth Capital Partners, wrote in a research report Tuesday.

ExactTarget gets 80 percent of total revenue from e-mail, filling a “huge hole” in Salesforce’s current offerings, he added.

Salesforce’s purchase of ExactTarget would be the biggest e-marketing takeover since 2008, when Google Inc. completed its acquisition of DoubleClick Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Salesforce is paying about 7.6 times revenue, compared with the median of 1.9 times revenue in a survey of more than 70 similar deals, the data show.


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