Fresh from being bought by Verizon, AOL is reportedly preparing to acquire mobile ad tech company Millennial Media for $300 million

Tim ArmstrongAPAOL CEO Tim Armstrong.

Verizon only completed its $US4.4 billion acquisition of AOL late last month, but now the newly merged companies are already reportedly on the hunt for their next big buy.

TechCrunch reports AOL is in the process of buying mobile ad network Millennial Media for $US300 million.

AOL and Millennial Media have not yet responded to requests for comment. We will update this article when we hear back.

As TechCrunch points out, a $US300 million price tag would be a premium for Millennial Media. Its stock is currently trading at $US1.45 — a market cap of $US217 million. MM stock once traded at nearly $US11, but it has only declined since it staged its IPO. An acquisition would thus represent a welcome premium for its investors:

Millennial Media reported $US296 million in gross revenue in 2014, up 14% year on year. Gross profit (equal to gross revenues after pass-through costs) grew 12% to $US116 million, but the company also reported a loss of $US149 million. The company has about $US37 million in cash on its balance sheet.

Many industry observers saw Verizon’s acquisition of AOL as a way for the telecoms company to juice more value from its huge 130 million-plus customer base, and its huge repository of data using AOL’s ad tech. Adding a mobile ad network and exchange like Millennial Media could help accelerate this push.

Indeed, shortly after Verizon’s acquisition of AOL was announced, Millennial Media’s EVP of business strategy Marc Theerman told Business Insider: “We congratulate our friends at AOL and Verizon on today’s news. Deals like these help grow and shape the entire ecosystem; it recognises the value of mobile advertising as Verizon evolves from a traditional telco player to acquiring one of the world’s largest media properties. This will support Millennial Media’s efforts in driving industry-wide 100% viewable inventory and will continue to bring more ad dollars into mobile.”

Speaking to Business Insider about the possibility of a Verizon/AOL acquisition of Millennial, one ad tech source said it was Millennial’s $US108 million acquisition of mobile ad exchange Nexage last year that really set Millennial up for a sale. Nexage provides real-time bidding software to help automate the buying and selling of mobile advertising.

Our source said: “Millennial Media has a good mobile footprint and a mobile exchange. I’d say the Nexage acquisition would help Millennial get bought as apps are where the money is — especially in Asia. To scale in Asia, you need an app exchange.”

Mobile advertising is on a growth spurt. Emarketer predicts the mobile ad market will be worth $US100 billion in 2016, making up 51% of the entire digital ad market.

Our source also added: “[Millennial Media CEO] Michael Barrett is a great strategist of ad tech, having flipped numerous companies, and his ability to see the value in ad tech. The man is a genius.”

Barrett joined Millennial Media in January 2014. In 2011 he sold Admeld, an advertising optimization platform for publishers, to Google for $US400 million. He joined Google for a brief period after the acquisition, but went on to become Yahoo’s global chief revenue officer in 2012. Later that year he founded Ichabod Farm Venture, an angel investments and consulting firm.

He continues to invest in ad tech companies, and is one of the investors in a new “ad blocker blocker” company Sourcepoint, which was also founded by a former Googler.

TechCrunch points out that some observers may have seen an acquisition offer coming after Millennial put out a statement last week about equity grants to six un-named employees as part of a retention package. The statement said the new stock options would vest over a period of four years. The possible implication is that Millennial wants to ensure it retains these execs in the event it is bought.

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