Independent investment research provider Morningstar Inc. announced this week that it plans to acquire the Hemscott data, media and investor relations web site businesses from Ipreo for $51.6 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in January.

Morningstar will gain ownership of several successful Hemscott business units. One is Hemscott Data, which provides financial information in nearly all public companies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Hemscott's global database contains information on more than 19,500 public companies, 170,000 directors and officers, and earnings estimates from 68 London securities firms. Hemscott Data currently has 350 clients, such as accounting and law firms, brokerages, investment banks, research firms, financial web sites and public companies. Company data these clients receive includes executive and director information (including biographies and compensation), historical pricing and volume data on stocks.

Hemscott Data also houses Hemscott Guru, a business-to-business online research tool that contains up-to-date financial information and directors' biographies on more than 2,500 U.K.-quoted companies and 400,000 private companies. Also under the Hemscott Data umbrella is Hemscott Adviser Rankings Guide, which is a listing of more than 1,800 leading providers of professional services to all U.K. and Irish-registered companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Other Hemscott Data properties include Hemscott India, which operates a data collection center in India and, a free investment research web site in the U.K. The fee site has more than 320,000 unique users a month, while its Hemscott Premium and Premium Plus subscription services boast more than 2,000 subscribers. Another property is Hemscott IR, which designs, builds, hosts and maintains investor relations pages for the corporate web sites of more than 540 companies.

In a press release announcing the deal, Joe Mansueto, chairman and CEO of Morningstar, explained that the acquisition of Hemscott would help the company achieve its goal of creating a global equity database and expand its presence beyond the U.S. Hemscott will also enable Morningstar to enter the Indian market, where it didn't previously have a presence.

For business information providers today, there is no choice about which geographic regions they cover. They must provide coverage for all. Business information customers, those seeking investment information in this case, don't want to be limited by borders; their businesses certainly aren't. So it is absolutely necessary for Morningstar, and companies like it, to seek out deals such as the Hemscott acquisition to bolster offerings on a more global scale. This deal is particular impressive because of the breath of content and services Hemscott offers. Morningstar can definitely hit the ground running with this deal in the New Year. Perhaps it will work to bolster Hemscott's content going forward, but it seems so complete now that any content improvements won't need to happen any time soon.