- Associated Press - Friday, August 13, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - IBM Corp. said Friday that it has agreed to buy the marketing services company Unica Corp. in a $480 million deal that would give IBM more tools to meet its customers’ growing demand for targeted advertising.

The all-cash acquisition brings IBM deeper into the advertising business, a relatively new area for the company. In June, the Armonk, N.Y., company agreed to buy Coremetrics Inc., a company that helps target online marketing.

It also expands IBM’s software business, its most profitable division and the main focus of a $20 billion acquisition spree for IBM over the past few years.

IBM is paying Unica shareholders $21 per share in cash _ more than double Unica’s closing price Thursday of $9.55. In Friday trading, Unica shares surged $11.29 to close at $20.84 after hitting a fresh high of $20.89 earlier in the session. Shares of International Business Machines Corp. fell 43 cents to $127.87.

Unica, based in Waltham, Mass., offers software that automates the process of predicting customer preferences, designing advertising campaigns based on that information and measuring how effective they are.

The rise of the Web as an advertising platform has heightened demand for marketing that has a measurable impact. And IBM wants to provide the tools for doing that kind of targeting, Craig Hayman, IBM’s general manager for Industry Solutions, said in an interview. “Unica brings science to the search for better outcomes,” Hayman said.

Unica generates annual revenue of more than $100 million and has more than 1,500 clients, including Best Buy Co. and eBay Inc.

In fiscal 2009, which ended in September, it booked a net loss of nearly $22 million. But since then, it has posted three profitable quarters in a row as businesses restore marketing budgets coming out of the recession.

IBM expects to close the deal in its October-December quarter.