Exclusive: French adtech firm Criteo in new bid to sell itself -sources

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - French advertising technology provider Criteo SA (CRTO.O) is making a new attempt to sell itself after discussions with potential acquirers in previous years proved unsuccessful, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Paris-based company, which is listed in New York, kicked off a sale process last week that could attract other companies and private equity firms, one of the sources said. Investment bank Evercore Inc (EVR.N) is advising Criteo on the process, the sources added.

Bloomberg News reported in 2021 that Criteo was fielding takeover interest. It was not immediately clear what prompted the new deal talks. The company has been seeking to reassure shareholders it can overcome challenges to its business of tracking consumer data as iPhone maker Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Android developer Google (GOOGL.O) tighten privacy standards on their devices.

The sources, who cautioned that no deal is certain, requested anonymity as these discussions are confidential.

Criteo declined to comment, while an Evercore spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Criteo shares jumped on the news and were up 8% at $33.65 in New York on Tuesday, giving the company a market value of about $2 billion.

The sale process for Criteo will likely pique the interest of buyout firms that have shown strong interest in audience measurement and analytics companies. In October, Elliott Investment Management's private equity arm and Brookfield Business Partners LP (BBU.N) acquired Nielsen Holdings Plc for $16 billion.

Truist analyst Matthew Thornton wrote in a note to clients after the Reuters report that his analysis indicated Criteo could fetch more than $60 per share if it was acquired at the same valuation multiple as Nielsen.

Criteo collects data through partnerships with companies, ad agencies and brands, and earns money by charging advertisers when consumers click on personalized ads.

It has been utilizing so-called first-party media technology, which relies on data that consumers provide to websites either through direct input or through tracking "cookies," to overcome the introduction of privacy settings on devices such as the iPhone.

These tactics face new challenges as Google prepares to phase out cookies on its popular web browser Chrome as early as next year. In response, Criteo has been investing in its fast-growing retail media business, which involves partnering directly with the websites of retailers.

Criteo has reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $163 million for the first nine months of 2022, down 23% from a year earlier. It is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Reporting by Milana Vinn in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski

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Milana Vinn reports on technology, media, and telecom (TMT) mergers and acquisitions. Her content usually appears in the markets and deals sections of the website. Milana previously worked at GLG and PE Hub, where she spent several years covering TMT deals in private equity. She graduated from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with Masters in Business Journalism. Contact: 347-463-7957