Jupiter, NetRatings Call Off Union

Web research firms Jupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq:JMXI) and NetRatings (Nasdaq: NTRT) will not join forces after all. The two have called off a deal under whichNetRatings would have acquired Jupiter Media Metrix forUS$71.2 million in cash and stock.

Jupiter may have been left at the altar,but the company is already anxious to date again. “With thetermination of the Jupiter Media Metrix/NetRatingsmerger, we will now pursue other strategic options,”said Robert Becker, CEO of the company.

Now, Jupiter is forming a special committee ofits board of directors to begin looking into other options that will strengthen the company’s positionin the marketplace.

FTC Opposition

Jupiter and NetRatings had hoped to complete the deal by the end ofMarch, but opposition from the Federal TradeCommission (FTC) proved too difficult to overcome.After “extensive discussions” with both companies, theFTC indicated it would seek a preliminary injunctionto block the acquisition.

The FTC’s main objection was the loan and securityaspect of the deal. According to Jupiter andNetRatings, the agency rejected alternative loan structuressuggested by the companies.

Competition was also an important issue, since the two firms hadplanned to come up with a common standard formeasuring Web traffic. That agreement prompted the FTCto ask for moreinformation about the deal in December.

The two companies do not agree with the FTC’s findings, butBecker said that without the loan agreement, Jupiter “was not in a position to contest the FTC in a lengthy court challenge.”

Lawsuit on Track

One signal that all was not well with the deal came inJanuary, when Jupiter announced it would go ahead witha patent infringementlawsuit against NetRatings.

At the time, the two companies said they were going ahead withthe suit in order to “preserve their respectivepositions in the patent litigation.” The trial is setto begin October 28th.

Taking Measurements

Jupiter Media Metrix and NetRatings go head-to-headwhen it comes to measuring Web traffic, oftenwith different results.

In January, for instance, NetRatings found that TaxAct.com wasthe fastest-growing tax site on the Web, with the number of uniquevisitors up 304 percent over December.

Irs.gov came in atnumber three with a 273 percent increase in unique visitors. NetRatingsalso named iVillageHealthas a top gainer among health sites, with its number of uniquevisitors up 282 percent in January to 2.076 million.

Jupiter, on the other hand, named Irs.gov as thefastest-growing tax site in January, with a 275percent increase in unique visitors over December. The company also found very different results for iVillageHealth. FromDecember to January, Jupiter recorded a263 percent increase in number of visitors at the site, to 3.5 million.

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