So once again the digital ink has barely had time to dry on my last blog article when along comes some news that changes my perspective. When I mentioned a few days ago that "the digital signage industry still lacks a presence on the public markets" (in "Digital signage firm Focus Media doing well on the public market"), I was thinking mostly about pure-play digital signage firms going public, like PRN was supposed to do all that time ago (see "PRN: A Digital Signage IPO Story" from May 2004). However, I neglected to mention the possibility that a larger, already publicly-traded company would acquire a digital signage firm, as has just happened today with 3M's acquisition of Mercury Online.
the press release has few details, and of course the terms of the deal
were not disclosed. Rumours in the industry place it in the low
eight figures, but I'd take all of that with a grain of salt :)
Digital signage news site aka.tv has a bit more information in this article,
where they claim to have spoken with Mercury's director of business
development Bob Sullivan. He thinks (and I'm sure we'll agree) that
"the involvement of 3M in the digital-signage market is an indication
of significant outside interest now being shown in an industry which
has undergone only internal consolidation to date." I think this
is good news for the market as a whole. My only complaint is that
3M is such a big company that we'll never be able to extract how much
business they're doing in the signage arena, even with the help of
their quarterly financial statements.
And what about the aforementioned PRN? Well, they had a big news day, too. As aka.tv has also written,
the firm has withdrawn its registration for an IPO, and looks like it
will be staying private for the time being. This isn't too
surprising considering that it has been over a year from their initial
announcement, without any of the usual indicators that the company was
about to make its IPO. So, while I'm happy that we were able to
gain a bit of insight into one of the biggest digital signage companies
around (via a review of the documents on file with the SEC), it looks
like Focus Media will stay the only IPO'd digital signage company for
the time being.