When Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) dropped a cool $12.5 billion for struggling Motorola Mobility in the spring, it was no secret what it was after. Motorola has smartphone hardware to boost Google's Android-related offerings, along with a bevy of patents and licensing rights; the rest is just fluff.
After talking about it for months, Google's close to ridding itself of at least some of Motorola's excess; in this instance, its set-top box unit . Though Google shareholders have enjoyed a 19% jump in share price since the Motorola deal was announced, there's been some pressure lately as investors remain concerned about the drag on Google from Motorola's woeful financials.
The proposed deal(s)
Though Google has already said the recent Dec. 7 deadline could be extended, there's word that there are several bidders for its set-top business. Arris Group (NASDAQ:ARRS) and Pace are at the top of most shortlists for the former Motorola unit, but a number of private equity types are expected to enter the fray, too.
Naturally, no one's commenting from any of the potential suitors involved, but the purchase price bandied about looks good for Google. Most put the bids in the $1.5 billion to $2 billion range and, critical for Google, will not include the intellectual rights behind the hardware. As Google watchers know, its worked on its own Internet-for-TV solutions for some time, and retaining Motorola's technical rights is a good move, particularly if it can still get $2 billion without them included.
Where does that leave Google?
As usual, Google has its fingers in multiple pies. The latest news is a $500 million partnership with smartphone, tablet, and OS competitor Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for patents belonging to the beleaguered Kodak. The package deal makes sense, because buying them separately would surely cost each more than the $250 million.
As discussed on numerous occasions, the Google+ service, though still relatively new, has been growing at an alarming rate. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) shareholders don't seem overly concerned, as its share price continues to impress. But as reported on Google's blog page on Dec. 6, Google + is the "... fastest growing network thingy, ever." More than 500 million users have upgraded, and 235 million are "active." My daughter's elementary school has her up and running on a Google+ account, for heaven's sake. Don't lose sight of this one, Facebook.
In addition to the 4,000 Motorola Mobility job cuts that Google has already announced, the $2 billion (P.S. Google is willing to finance some of that, if need be) from the sale of the set-top business should help appease investors. Long term, costs associated with Motorola were never going to be a concern anyway; it's Google!
But the Motorola unit sale means Google can focus on its core growth areas, bolster its already rock-solid financial statement, and might even overshadow Bermuda tax scandals, Groupon buyout talk , and a new M &A chief. Nah, not likely. What it should do is reinforce Google's position as one of the best, long-term investment opportunities in the industry.