Adieu, aQuantive

So this is goodbye:

  • 48% revenue growth.
  • 28% earnings growth, excluding acquisition charges.
  • A sturdy balance sheet that, as of today, sports roughly $230 million in cash and short-term investments, after accounting for long-term debt.

Really, aQuantive (Nasdaq: AQNT  ) , with Q2 numbers like that, I hate to see you leave our public markets. But, hey, I can understand your reasons for moving to the comfy confines of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Redmond, Wash., headquarters. All $6.6 billion of them.

Still, it's tough not to admire your business. Every segment improved. For example, the signature Digital Marketing Services (DMS) group, led by interactive agency Avenue A | Razorfish, grew its top line by 47%. DMS also accounted for 60% of total Q2 revenue, up from 58% in Q1.

There's good news for Microsoft in that number. aQuantive, you see, isn't just an ad shop. It also produces websites and other digital content. As a division of Microsoft, it will continue to do so, except that it will be working primarily with Mr. Softy's tools.

And that includes Massive, a video game advertising specialist that Microsoft acquired last spring. Can't you see how this will play out? Microsoft builds the games, aQuantive builds the ads, Massive loads them and makes them customizable, and users play the games on the Xbox. Not even Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) can claim this sort of vertical integration.

Meanwhile, Microsoft should benefit from exploding growth in aQuantive's other two areas of business: digital marketing technologies (DMT) and digital performance media (DPM).

The DMT unit hosts aQuantive's Atlas Digital Marketing Suite, which clients use to plan, execute, and measure the success of online marketing efforts. In Q2, it contributed the largest share of operating income.

DPM, meanwhile, is a groundbreaking media-buying business where, in many cases, clients pay according to the results they achieve. It's also aQuantive's fastest-growing segment, achieving 81% year-over-year revenue growth.

If there was any problem worth mentioning here, it's free cash flow, which ran negative for the first time in years. But that was due to $6.2 million in after-tax charges for the acquisition, and huge swings in working capital, probably designed to freeze the books so that Microsoft can start fresh.

Good idea. But please, Mr. Softy, remember: This is no toy you've bought. This is a serious, fast-growing business that could provide you with most of what you'll need to compete against DoubleGoo. Take excellent care of it.

And aQuantive? Adieu, adios, arrivederci -- you've been a good friend to this Fool's portfolio.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of aQuantive at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy used to run numbers down by the Jersey shore. Today, it runs circles around Wall Street.


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