Tom.com is close to placing the last piece in the jigsaw of becoming a market leader in the mainland outdoor media sector after announcing it will acquire four more firms. Tycoon Li Ka-shing's online and cross-media venture will buy controlling stakes in four mainland outdoor advertising firms for a total consideration of HK$153.35 million in cash and new shares at HK$5.51 each. Tom.com has been on a buying spree in the past 18 months, with the aim of diversifying from an online business to traditional mediums, such as print, outdoor media and sport and marketing. It now owns 12 mainland outdoor media firms across 22 cities and has put its portfolio under the TOM Outdoor Media Group. Last year, these companies generated net profit of HK$130 million on combined revenue of HK$370 million. Chief executive Sing Wang said the target for this year was for combined revenue of HK$460 million. 'We are now one of the largest players in the market and also the most profitable one,' Mr Wang said of Tom.com, which is competing with three newly listed mainland outdoor advertising firms - Clear Media, Media Nation and Media Partner International. Among Tom.com's outdoor media mix, billboards and unipoles accounted for 44 per cent and 31 per cent respectively in terms of advertising space. Mr Wang said these two areas were the focus of its outdoor media flagship. 'We also adopt this strategy passively as the competitor Clear Media has built a national network in bus shelter business.' The other two rivals have based their major business on transportation, such as ad spaces on buses and trains. However, Tom.com's move to tap the sector has failed to convince the market on its outlook. Jonathan Iu, an analyst at SG Securities, said: 'The acquisitions look a bit unfocused in the fragmented [mainland outdoor media] sector . . . The company is buying something here and there.' Mr Iu believed it was hard to grab a critical mass in the mainland's billboard advertising mediums. Meanwhile, the acquisition values of Tom.com's newest firms are at 9.5 times on their outdoor business and 4.75 times on agency business. The four firms Tom.com acquired are Shenyang Sano Jinxiang Advertising, Sichuan Southwest International Advertising, Xiamen Bomei Advertising and Fujian Seeout Outdoor Advertising. On average, the firms had a utilisation rate of 77 per cent. Mr Wang admitted that the upside potential on improving utilisation would be limited, but there was room to grow in the market and price structure. The average account receivables for all its outdoor advertising firms was more than three months, he said.