AT&T sells Xandr ad unit to Microsoft

AT&T announced that it has agreed to sell its global programmatic advertising marketplace Xandr to Microsoft. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed; the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory reviews.

The acquisition represents the close of another chapter of AppNexus, a once-leader of the programmatic industry that was renamed Xandr after its 2018 acquisition but never found a place within the AT&T organization.

Microsoft, which makes a huge income by licensing software like Windows and Office, also manages ad-supported businesses, including Bing, MSN, and LinkedIn. 

“Microsoft can accelerate the delivery of its digital advertising and retail media solutions, shaping tomorrow’s digital ad marketplace into one that respects consumer privacy preferences, understands publishers’ relationships with consumers and helps advertisers meet their goals,” said Mikhail Parakhin, President of Web Experiences at Microsoft.

Microsoft was an early stage investor in AppNexus and had several key strategic partnerships with the team prior to its sale to AT&T in 2018. However, it has faced some competition in recent months to acquire its ad tech assets from the telco, with InMobi taking a prominent place in the race. Xandr had joined the Microsoft Audience Network, which serves “Microsoft Audience Ads” in 2020. 

The deal does not include the advertising sales business supporting DirecTV, which AT&T spun off in a deal with TPG Capital earlier this year. 

“Microsoft’s shared vision of empowering a free and open web and championing an open industry alternative via a global advertising marketplace makes it a great fit for Xandr. We look forward to using our innovative platform to help accelerate Microsoft’s digital advertising and retail media capabilities,” said Xandr’s EVP and GM Mike Welch.

The deal comes at a time of the latest M&A frenzy in the industry with notable year-end deals, including Criteo’s purchase of IPONWEB for $380 million and GumGum’s acquisition of Playground xyz.

Written by Sophie Blake

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