The market is always bubbling with takeover speculation -- the tech sector more than most. Even so, the amount of new buyout rumors in tech has been downright ridiculous this week. Let's knock down a few straw men, shall we?
BlackBerry's black eye
First up, troubled smartphone maker Research In Motion
But MarketWatch calls these rumors "unlikely," and The Wall Street Journal wins the price for best dismissal by calling the supposed deal a "magic-unicorn rescue."
When you think about it, RIM is sitting on a BlackBerry brand that has lost its luster; operating cash flows turned negative last quarter. Sales growth is slowing down and margins are shriveling like a snail racing across the Utah salt flats, which I think is a pretty apt metaphor for RIM itself.
Vodafone's management has too much sense to waste money or dilute its own shares to acquire this mess. If RIM ever finds a buyer, it will happen well below today's prices. Whether it's part of a bankruptcy sale or the endgame of simply shrinking in the open market (go back to the snail again) remains to be seen. But either way, this future buyout won't make today's shareholders happy at all.
Oh me, oh Akamai
Then there's network efficiency expert Akamai Technologies
The stock has fallen drastically in 2011, and Bloomberg says that it looks like an attractive buyout target at these prices. This time, the would-be partners include IBM
Rick Munarriz notes that the price may have fallen but so has Akamai's earnings power. In other words, you could have bought Akamai's dollar for a dime last year, or buy $0.50 today for a nickel. I do love the idea of Akamai under the Big Blue umbrella but would be shocked to see it happen. Akamai itself denies any interest in making a deal. Moving on...
Can we call it Yasoft this time?
And finally the Microhoo saw never gets old, does it? Reuters doesn't think so, anyway, and reports that Microsoft
This time, we know for certain that Yahoo! is indeed looking for a buyer -- or at the very least a capable CEO. As with RIM, we're looking at a tech titan that has fallen and can't get up.
The first Microhoo dance seemed silly to me at the time. Yahoo!'s global hordes of loyal followers were still pretty happy to ride the purple wagon; all that was missing was a better model for monetizing that torrential traffic. Two management changes later, Big Y is leaderless and rudderless. The empire is losing the page-view wars to Google and Facebook, and can't figure out how to run a modern Web business with social networking and high-quality advertising.
Is Microsoft desperate enough for an online foothold to place a $20 billion bet on the Rodney Dangerfield of online portals? Perhaps, but then the Kinect-powered success of the Xbox 360 entertainment system serves as a much cheaper and arguably more successful replacement.
If I had a handlebar moustache and a jaunty black beret, I'd flag this one as "plausible." That's still a long way away from "confirmed."
None of these buyout rumors look fit for a real-money investment -- chances are that you'll be stuck grasping a falling machete in all three cases, and that's not how you beat the Dow