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DATA NEWS: Information Arts finds its perfect partner in Harte Hanks

B2B data specialist Information Arts looks set to follow arch rival PH Group into acquisition by a large corporate data provider, following a deal with US data giant Harte Hanks, for an undisclosed sum.

The 'option-to-acquire' deal terminates months of speculation regarding the future of Information Arts, which had previously been linked with Experian (which eventually bought PH Group – see and Gyro International. It effectively gives Harte Hanks first refusal to buy Information Arts at a predetermined point in the future, depending on growth and profitability achieved in the meantime and utilising a pre-specified pricing structure.

Simon Lawrence, CEO of Information Arts and B2B Marketing columnist, refuses to be drawn on the time or financial details of the deal, which is unusual in marketing services acquisitions, but does confirm that Harte Hanks has paid a fee for the option, which is non-refundable. Until the deal matures, the company will remain fully independent, although working in collaboration with the potential parent.

Lawrence claims Information Arts has been speaking to Harte Hanks on and off for 18 months, but describes exposure to its client-base of world-class companies as being the key factor in the deal, as well as its scale. “We've been really impressed by the kind of companies that they have access to. There are a number of key projects that we're already working on with them,” he says.

The Information Arts/Harte Hanks deal, together with PH Group's acquisition by Experian, is good news for B2B marketing claims Lawrence. “The implication is that data is at the centre of things, at the heart of the proposition.”

This is echoed by Iain Lovett, executive chair of rival B2B data specialist Blue Sheep. “The deal is good news,” he says, although he adds that both deals are probably a response to changing market dynamics. “The (data) market is getting more difficult, and data protection legislation is making getting hold of accurate data increasingly hard. The market is moving away from bulk buying of data, and some of the big data providers are struggling. There is a need for more marketing intelligence.”

Lovett also agrees with Lawrence that although data analytics is in more demand, its uptake is being hindered by lack of supply. “I don't see the new agencies coming through, although there are more online tools and there are some companies fiddling around at the edges.” Until these new entrants do arrive, the likes of Information Arts, PH Group and Blue Sheep can expect to continue to thrive.


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