US-based FindWhat.com is to buy European paid listing service Espotting Media for $163m (£97m).
The merging companies are complementary, offering similar services in different geographic marketplaces, Espotting marketing director Chrys Philalithes said.
The companies run on an auction basis, with a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service allowing advertisers to bid a higher price at any time to boost their names to the top of a keyword listing.
Paid listing services are most useful when people want to buy a specific product. "If you're doing research, go to Google, but if you want to buy goods, come to Espotting. [The listings are] country-specific and we have an editorial team that checks every listing for relevance," she said.
Espotting was set up in February 2000 and launched its UK service in September of that year. It now operates in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Ireland and Switzerland.
As well as running its own site, the company works with portals including Yahoo and Lycos to provide paid-for listings under key words.
FindWhat.com was formed in March 1998 and became a publicly traded company in June 1999. Since then, its revenue has grown from $450,000 to more than $42m (£25m) in 2002.
Espotting deals with over 850 million queries a month and that number will rise to 2.25 billion when it combines with FindWhat.com, Philalithes said. It has more than 16,000 existing clients in Europe.
The combined business will have 40,000 advertisers and is expected to have a revenue of $140m (£84m) in 2003, FindWhat said.
FindWhat said it predicted a 30% to 40% revenue growth and 40% to 50% pretax income growth in 2004, due to opportunities in the markets of both companies and the benefits of the merged operation.
No decision has yet been made on whether the Espotting name will be retained.
Espotting's stockholders will receive about 8.1 million shares of FindWhat.com common stock and about $27m (£16m) in cash, Espotting said.
The merger is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service