The Federal Trade Commission could end its investigation into the business practices of online advertising company ValueClick Inc. as soon as the first quarter of this year, according to the Westlake Village company.

ValueClick Chief Executive Tom Vadnais, in release issued late Wednesday, said that the company is cooperating with the government's probe into its lead generation business, which allows advertisers to specifically target consumers based on a series of qualifications.

He added that the company has "made good progress" and is "optimistic that [the issue] will be resolved soon." Vadnais also said that he believes the FTC's goal in the investigation which includes other companies in the sector is to establish regulations governing the currently unregulated Internet advertising industry.

Shares in ValueClick have shed 46 percent since the probe was announced n May. ValueClick has been rumored to be a acquisition target for a large Internet company give recent acquisitions by Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. of other online ad companies.

Shares in ValueClick were up 3.7 percent to $20.04 in early trading Thursday on the Nasdaq.

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