Dow Jones will pay $18 a share for MarketWatch in a deal that allows the parent of The Wall Street Journal to expand its reach into the consumer financial news business, the two companies said.
MarketWatch quietly went on the block early last month, drawing the interest of several media companies,, which has a 23 percent stake in MarketWatch. Other interested bidders included and The New York Times Co., sources said.
If approved by shareholders, the purchase will give Dow Jones access to a wider Internet audience and a bigger slice of the online-advertising market. Dow Jones' Wall Street Journal Online edition requires a paid subscription, and subscriber growth appears to have leveled off at about 700,000 users.
MarketWatch.com had 5.8 million unique visitors in September, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
"Joining Dow Jones is a great next step for MarketWatch," Larry Kramer, chairman and chief executive officer of MarketWatch, said in a statement. "Being part of one of the most respected media conglomerates in the world gives us a terrific platform to grow our business and compete with the largest media companies."
Kramer created the site, then MarketWatch.com, for Data Broadcasting Corp. in 1995. Kramer, who had been an editor for The Washington Post, the Trenton Times and the San Francisco Examiner, owns 148,000 shares.
MarketWatch sells licenses for its online financial software tools to other Web sites, allowing their users to chart stock prices and other data. The company also has several paid-subscription newsletter products.
MarketWatch reported third-quarter earnings in October that were double the previous year's, citing growth in online-advertising revenue. The stock is up 78 percent since mid-August.
On Friday, MarketWatch stock added 13 cents to close at $16.79.