Like a good friend whom everyone is trying to fix up, matchmakers are whispering around Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) again.
The Barron's Tech Trader blog column is crediting TheFlyOnTheWall.com for a rumor this morning, indicating that Netflix is a hot buyout candidate.
But the news doesn't make any sense. The chatter seemed plausible a couple of years ago, when Netflix was threatened by a hungry, price-slashing Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) and fears of irrelevance in a digitally delivered future.
Since then, Netflix has emerged victorious on both fronts. Blockbuster's cash crunch forced it to back away from cutthroat subscriptions. Netflix's streaming service, available at no additional costs for members on unlimited DVD plans, is a hit.
Things are going so well with Netflix that it was one of the few consumer-facing stocks to close 2008 higher than when it started. With 10.3 million members in its latest quarter, Netflix is growing its user base at a time when other premium entertainment providers, including Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) and DISH Network (Nasdaq: DISH ) , are shedding subscribers.
In short, Netflix is no longer desperate. It's also no longer cheap, and it's left with little reason to cash out as its coffers and rolls continue to grow.
And who would buy Netflix, anyway? Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) are the two obvious sugar daddies, but neither one makes sense at this point.
Amazon is booting affiliates from North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Hawaii because it doesn't want to have a presence in states that would force it to collect sales tax. How silly would Amazon be, then, to tack on Netflix's network of dozens of distribution centers?
Microsoft is still licking its wounds after chasing an out-of-favor Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) last year. Even if Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sits on Microsoft's board, it doesn't make sense for Mr. Softy to pursue a company that is organically popular. Netflix investors would demand a hefty premium. Oh, and let's not forget that regulators are critical of anything that the folks in Redmond want to ingest.
So let this rumor die a respectful death. It no longer makes dollars or sense.
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