Mobile advertising company Smaato is set to become the latest technology startup to be acquired by Chinese investors, after the San Francisco firm announced that Beijing-based Spearhead Integrated Marketing Communication Group, an offline marketing organization, has agreed to buy it for $148 million.
Founded in 2005, Smaato is a real-time advertising exchange for mobile sites and app developers. It operates both a supply-side platform for managing ad inventory and an exchange for dealing with multiple ad networks which it says has a combined reach to more than one billion mobile users. The company has raised $47 million from investors to date, including its most recent $25 million Series E round led by Singapore Press Holdings in August 2014.
The deal is subject to approvals since Spearhead is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and it will be made via an M&A fund invested by one of its fully-owned subsidiaries. The tie-in stands to benefit each party, according to Smaato CEO and co-founder Ragnar Kruse.
“This collaboration creates enormous new opportunities for both partners. Spearhead brings to Smaato not only its expertise and a trusted partnership but opens up the Chinese market for us. Smaato allows Spearhead to expand very quickly outside of China. Together, we unlock potential for enormous growth and exciting possibilities that neither business could achieve alone,” he said in a statement.
The deal is the third major acquisition of an international company by a Chinese entity in recent times. A consortium that includes Qihoo 360 and Grindr-owner Kunlun Tech is close to buying browser maker Opera for $1.2 billion, while NativeX, another mobile ad tech startup, was acquired by China’s Mobvista for $24.5 million in February.
Rather than an exit, Smaato is positioning the news as an opportunity to grow. Kruse told AdExchanger that this deal will enable it to invest in acquisitions and other strategies to grow its business.
“That’s the big difference between this and a financial investor that basically comes in and says, ‘You have a three- to five-year return horizon,’” Kruse explained.