Win Yahoo!'s Billions

Let's play a game. It's called "You wake up, and you're Carol Bartz."

You find yourself running a company with nearly $3.5 billion in the bank, arrested development as a former growth stock, and a pesky perv of a stalker who's obsessed with possessing you -- for your search engine.

As Dr. Seuss would probably ask, "What would you do if Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) were you, too?"

I know what I would do. I'd go shopping. With $3.5 billion on my Yahooligan debit card, I wouldn't stop until I had acquired a collection of properties to provide the growth spark that just doesn't seem possible organically these days.

Oh, and I would go shopping sooner rather than later. If we actually are in the early stages of the market's bullish turnaround (and we may be, so stop snickering), sticker prices will only go up from here.

Yahoo! isn't the only hungry Web company with billions in the bank and a receding hare line. It's a hare in a tortoise's body, so it may as well break out of its shell.

The bucket list
I'm going to stick to publicly traded companies in loading up my shopping cart. It's not that Facebook or Twitter wouldn't look smashing on Yahoo!'s arm -- and make it cool again, the way bouncers let it get past the velvet rope when it snapped up Flickr a few years ago. However, absent a realistic market price, I'm going to stick with companies where Mr. Market has dictated what other companies are worth.

 Here are six companies that I think would fit in nicely with Yahoo! at the moment.

Company

4/22/09

Enterprise Value

Internet Brands (Nasdaq: INET  )

$6.16

$221.9 million

The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT  )

$8.55

$211.2 million

Bankrate (Nasdaq: RATE  )

$27.11

$465.0 million

IAC (Nasdaq: IACI  )

$16.15

$522.7 million

51job (Nasdaq: JOBS  )

$7.74

$199.6 million

Dice Holdings (NYSE: DHX  )

$3.72

$216.4 million

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Add it up and you only need $1.7 billion to pull this off at today's prices. Naturally, most companies expect a reasonable premium in a buyout, but it clearly wouldn't be enough to break the bank at Yahoo!

Cheaper by the half dozen
What makes these six companies so compelling, beyond their reasonable price tags? Let's dive right in.

Internet Brands, The Knot, and Bankrate would all be moves to build up billable ad space for lucrative keywords. Whether we're talking about travel (Internet Brands), weddings (The Knot), or financial services (Bankrate), these are niche-specific sites that would be fertile soil for Yahoo!'s pay-per-click network, where sponsors bid on keywords.

As for IAC, don't let the $2.3 billion market cap throw you off. That includes a whopping $1.9 billion in cash, helping whittle down the actual capital outlay required to buy the company at current prices closer to half a billion. IAC owns several properties that would dovetail nicely with Yahoo! existing sites -- like Match.com and Chemistry.com for Yahoo!'s online dating personals -- but the star attraction here is Ask.com.

Ask.com is the country's fifth largest search engine. Yahoo! is currently sitting in second place. It's the largest search engine that can be reasonably bought by Yahoo!, and it would add nearly a nearly 4% slice of the search-engine market share to the company.

51job and Dice are ways to beef up Yahoo!'s HotJobs. Yes, Yahoo!'s job listing site is rumored to be on the block. Yahoo! has been doing a lot of cutting lately. However, between 51job in China and Dice's narrow specialties in areas like tech, security, and financial services, it would help make Yahoo! a bigger force. At a time when many newspapers are going out of business, Yahoo! would be nuts to leave the job listings arena.

Art of the Bartz
Adding may seem like an odd strategy when Yahoo! is subtracting. It's closing down smaller sites and laying off employees. However, winning over investors is going to require more than just shrewd cost-cutting. Sooner or later, Yahoo! is going to have to prove that it can be a growth stock again.

So how would you play it if you were Bartz? It's your turn now. Let me know in the comment box below.

The world according to Yahoo!:

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The Knot and Bankrate are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that Microhoo will inevitably happen, so Yahoo! may as well go out kicking, screaming, and buying. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2009, at 2:10 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    If I was in the shoes of Yahoo! I would buy JRJC, SOHU INFN and RAX. Or at least a controlling interest in each.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2009, at 3:11 PM, Melaschasm wrote:

    IAC would seem like a good fit with Yahoo. With dating sites the more traffic, the better, allowing paid subscribers to search/contact people on the other sites would add value with little additional cost. Ask.com would add market share for Yahoo, and create larger anti-trust problems for a Microsoft buyout.

    I like bankrate.com, but I can't help but wonder if it would cost Yahoo less to expand Yahoo Finance to offer much of what bankrate currently does.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2009, at 5:35 PM, tenderslounge wrote:

    In addition to IAC I'd target privately-held Yoono, integrate it the same way AOL did w/ Socialthing and then run text ads in it all day long, reaching users even when they're off YHOO sites.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2009, at 6:42 PM, MichalTod wrote:

    Very few companies do well at the growth via buying companies route. Yahoo itself has a mixed results with this in the past. As an investor, I would avoid Yahoo with or without an aggressive oracle-like company buying spree, so I guess that puts Yahoo between a rock and a hard place.

    If I were them, I'd go shopping for tiny, non-public companies that have exciting new ideas/technology that would benefit from being merged with a big partner. Those valuations have fallen further than the public companies, are much easier to integrate, and cost far, far less.

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