In the telecom sector, aggressive acquisition tactics are typically the exception, not the rule -- unless you're telecom giant Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), that is.
The nation's largest mobile-phone provider has revved its acquisition machine into high gear in recent weeks, buying a host of digital-media and cloud-computing assets, culminating in its $4.8 billion Yahoo! acquisition late last month.
So what exactly is Verizon trying to achieve with its over $10 billion in buyout activity? Let's take a look.
Verizon's $10 billion shopping spree
In a little over a year, Verizon has spent lavishly to acquire its way into markets including cloud-based enterprise services and digital media, spheres of the tech world seemingly disparate from wireless communications.
Last May, Verizon agreed to purchase AOL for $4.4 billion, moving the wireless provider into content ownership and advertising. The second act arrived more recently, when Verizon also agreed to buy Yahoo! for $4.8 billion several weeks ago. As the more consumer-facing area of Verizon's shopping spree, the media side of things has understandably received more attention.
Then this week, Verizon also announced it had reached a deal to buy Irish workforce management solutions provider Fleetmatics (NYSE:FLTX) for roughly $2.4 billion. Fleetmatics provides software-as-a-service solutions for companies to monitor corporate workforce vehicles' locations, fuel usage, speed, and mileage to add to its Verizon Telematics business. Similarly, Verizon also purchased the California-based Telogis -- which, like Fleetmatics, provides mobile workforce management solutions -- for an undisclosed amount in June.
All told, Verizon has spent a sum approaching its annual profit in the name of buying its way into two new lines of business. However, rather than being viewed as a single strategy, investors should analyze these moves as distinct growth strategies for Verizon.
At first glance, Verizon's recent moves may seem confounding. However, upon deeper examination, we see that its maneuverings aim to continue to grow the telecom giant's revenues and profits as its mainstay U.S. telecom businesses mature.
In terms of its Fleetmatics and Telogis services, Verizon's shift deeper into telematics -- roughly defined as the use of telecom-powered software in vehicles -- will probably help increase Verizon's sales and reduce its costs in one fell swoop. The moves should help Verizon expand its footprint in providing mobile workforce tracking services to an increasing host of enterprises. What's more, diving deeper into telematics exposes the company to the Internet of Things, where Verizon sees remote monitoring business opportunities in large market verticals, including energy, healthcare, and connected cities, to name a few. Lastly, its new technological capabilities will help Verizon more effectively monitor its own fleet of 28,900 vehicles as well, potentially helping the company reduce its own costs.
As for its AOL and Yahoo! purchases, Verizon also clearly sees an opportunity in mobile content and selling advertisements against that content. Combining AOL's and Yahoo!'s content businesses with its own ability to gather data from its wireless users to create a print and video content business is something one Verizon executive conceptualized as a "Viacom of tomorrow." eMarketer estimates that global mobile ad spending will grow 47% to surpass $100 billion for the first time ever in 2016. What's more, this figure is expected to increase to roughly $195 billion by 2019.
The key to Verizon's success here will be its ability to challenge Facebook and Alphabet, which together accounted for 64% of all U.S. online ad revenue in 2015. Thanks to AOL and Yahoo!, Verizon will now own some of the most widely viewed content properties in the world. However, it remains unclear whether this new combination of massive content scale and mobile data can successfully translate into a third mobile advertising power.
Neither its move into telematics nor its expanding mobile-ad business is a bet-the-farm play for Verizon. Verizon's media investments alone represent only 5% of the company's annual capital expenditures. However, it will be fascinating to see how Verizon's plunge into these two areas of technology and media play out in the years to come.