Easy come, easy go. Sometimes, the windfall is gone before you even know it.
That's what happened to shareholders of Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM) last night. Share prices spiked as much as 17% in aftermarket trading on account of rumors that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) wants to buy the global network efficiency expert. Akamai's stock has been crushed in 2011, making it a cheap buyout target; Google would love to get its hands on Akamai's reams of traffic data.
And in the blink of an eye, the gains were mostly gone. Bloomberg quickly reported that two "people familiar with the matter" categorically deny the rumor. And so Akamai is up a much more modest 7% today instead, on the very eve of Google's earnings report.
If you own Akamai, you're probably used to this. The company is a perennial buyout candidate in good times and bad, at least if you listen to the rumor mill. Likewise, Google sits on a $39 billion pile of cash equivalents and has a history of making splashy acquisitions. From that perspective, a Gookamai deal makes all the sense in the world.
On the other hand, direct Google rival Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) has been a major Akamai customer for at least 15 years and would probably tap regulators to put the brakes on a deal like that. It doesn't help any that Akamai President David Kenny sits on Yahoo!'s board of directors, either. Plus, Akamai makes a big deal out of its video networking deal with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) -- and that company has mighty close ties to Google arch-nemesis Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). The buried skeletons pile up quickly when you start digging.
The spark that ignited the original rumor was reports to Business Insider that Big G is looking for a large buy in the "ad tech" space. Akamai's name simply comes up by default, but there are plenty of other fish in that particular sea to sate Google's deal hunger.
For example, smaller Akamai clone Limelight Networks (Nasdaq: LLNW) also comes with a Netflix deal and all the video-handling data that implies, but is small enough to sneak under regulatory radars anyway. Elsewhere, National CineMedia (Nasdaq: NCMI) would give Google inroads into a whole new market, namely the increasingly digital cinema industry, without stepping on any obvious toes. Of these two, I'd much prefer to see a CineMedia deal, but I'm just speculating here. Y'know, like Business Insider did to kick this whole drama off.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google and Netflix but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He likes his oceanic metaphors shaken, not stirred. The Motley Fool owns shares of Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bear put spread position in Netflix, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+ , or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.