TradeDoubler has today announced the acquisition of The IMW Group, which owns The Search Works, the largest independent search engine marketing company in the UK.

The IMW Group consists of The Search Works and The Technology Works, which provides search management technology. The deal - worth £56m and with a large cash element - will establish TradeDoubler as one of the largest online marketing firms in Europe.

The deal expands the range of marketing services that TradeDoubler can offer across Europe, adding search engine marketing to its existing affiliate marketing and online display ad offerings.

With Google creeping towards the affiliate space with the launch of cost-per-acquisition (CPA) ads, it could be that Tradedoubler is hedging its bets. Alternatively, the firm may simply want to expand its range of services to sell to both merchants and affiliates. Some affiliates we know spend millions on paid search every month. And some merchants manage more than a million keyphrases.

Founded in 1999, the IMW Group has clients including Asda and EasyJet and employs 108 staff. The company’s turnover for the year to June 2007 was £69m and the group made a profit of £7.8m.

Meanwhile, TradeDoubler released its Q2 financial results today, reporting increased revenues, which increased by 27.9% year on year, to reach €56m (£37.5m) while gross profit was up 25.4% to €15.5m (£10.3m)

Earlier this year, TradeDoubler was close to being taken over, until AOL pulled out of the $900m takeover bid after failing to gain support from the company’s shareholders.

We expect another bid to materialise at some point – the sector is primed for consolidation - though with Tradedoubler buying quality companies like IMW potential acquirers will surely be looking at a price in excess of $1bn.

At any rate, well done to Nick Hynes and The Search Works team.