News of yesterday's $6.5 billion deal between Texas Instruments and National Semiconductor got everyone's juices flowing in terms of looking for the next buyout. In the first quarter, we witnessed $591 billion worth of merger activity, a 29% jump from the first quarter of last year.
Unfortunately, none of us has a crystal ball at our disposal, so predicting which company may be next is difficult -- but I figured I'd give it a try nonetheless. After rummaging through the Internet service and networking space, I've uncovered two companies that could make attractive takeover targets. Please keep in mind though that these are mere starting points for further research and not whole-hearted endorsements.
I don't think any Internet consolidation discussion would be complete without discussing the possibility of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) being purchased by a larger entity.
Yahoo! is more than just a search engine behemoth that has generated $1 billion-plus in operating cash flow in the trailing 12 months and has about $3.6 billion in cash on hand. The reality though is that Yahoo!'s rivals Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Baidu are leaving Yahoo! in the dust. Yahoo!'s business model is stale, and the company would be smart to maximize shareholder value by selling itself.
As for potential suitors, I feel Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) makes the most sense. The company made an unsuccessful bid for Yahoo! three years ago and could partner its Bing brand with Yahoo! to rival Google's mammoth search-engine platform. The lack of advertising overlap (especially in display advertising) could also save the combined entity quite a bit of money.
But don't count out Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , which also could make a splash by widely expanding its presence in Internet media by bidding for Yahoo!. Although not a perfect fit, Disney could use Yahoo! as a launching ground to promote its movies and services.
I can only imagine the look on your face when I tell you that EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK ) could be a takeover target -- I'll allow you to finish your yawn. EarthLink, the same Internet service provider that has dominated the dial-up Internet market for years, has recently switched its game plan away from individual consumers and now caters to businesses. The company still derives a significant share of its revenue from the dial-up business, but with the recent purchases of ITC Deltacom and One Communications, EarthLink has moved into a business with tangible assets that targets businesses rather than households.
One company that might be sweet on acquiring EarthLink is longtime networking partner Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) . Yes, I know what you're thinking; there's no way Time Warner would buy EarthLink, especially after the decadelong failure of the AOL experiment. But remember that AOL was just a media hub. EarthLink is now much more than just a media service. It has tangible assets that Time Warner may find attractive, and its long history of profitability could be the sweetener that seals this deal.
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