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NetCreations sells to Italian giant

The email marketer has agreed to be acquired by Italian conglomerate Seat Pagine Gialle for $111 million, which tops an earlier all-stock bid from DoubleClick.

Email marketer NetCreations has agreed to be acquired by Italian conglomerate Seat Pagine Gialle for $111 million, which tops an earlier all-stock bid from DoubleClick, the company announced Tuesday.

Under the deal, Seat (pronounced "say-aht") will pay $7 a share for New York-based NetCreations, which will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Italy's largest Internet service provider. Seat has set up a U.S. company to assist in the stock transference.

The deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2001, is subject to NetCreations shareholder approval and certain regulatory approvals.

The agreement ends a failed merger with DoubleClick, which in early October had offered .41 shares of DoubleClick for each NetCreations share. At the time, the deal was valued at roughly $191 million based on DoubleClick's share price. Since then, DoubleClick's shares have fallen considerably, making the deal worth about $57 million. The transaction was expected to close this quarter.

NetCreations manages direct-marketing email lists for Web sites. Through NetCreations, companies offer their online visitors ways to receive discounts, information about deals, or other content such as news headlines. The direct emailer has more than 350 third-party partners, including CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.

Last week, NetCreations told DoubleClick that it had received another offer from an unnamed company, prompting DoubleClick to back out of the bidding. NetCreations now must pay DoubleClick a breakup fee of $8.6 million plus expenses.

The deal would have been a good match for DoubleClick, which has been building its email marketing services in the last several months. By partnering with NetCreations, the company would have gained access to its more than 22 million registered email names.

"We are disappointed that NetCreations won't be a part of our success, but considering NetCreations' recently announced operating results and our own internal progress on email, we have decided not to raise our existing offer," DoubleClick CFO Stephen Collins said in a statement.

For Seat, the acquisition builds on its plans to create an online and offline global marketing service. The company has offered to acquire a controlling stake in Consodata, a French marketer with services similar to NetCreations', but in the offline world. Consodata works with 25 million opt-in postal addresses in Europe.

"When combined with Consodata's offerings, we will have an opportunity to develop a global offering for our partners and clients," said NetCreations CEO Rosalind Resnick, who will continue her role with the company.

The deal gives Seat "the opportunity to enter the U.S. market with a prime asset in the online consumer information marketing arena, and is consistent with our commitment to build a world-wide leading presence in this business segment," Seat chief executive Lorenzo Pellicioli said in a statement.

Seat publishes yellow pages in Italy. It also operates an Internet service provider, owns a Web portal, publishes trade directories, and prints directories for Telecom Italia.