Is Yahoo! acquiring assets or problems?

Posted on April 23, 2008


Over the last couple of years, Yahoo! has been on a perpetual shopping spree in recent years – acquiring social media and social networking companies to boost its status in the Web 2.0 world.

18 months ago, a Business Week article by Catherine Holahan – “Yahoo’s Strategy: Growth By Acquisition” – supported Yahoo’s strategy, promoting the relatively low cost of these acquisitions. In 2006 for example, Yahoo! acquired for about $20 million. Smaller acquisitions of maturing start-ups put Yahoo! in the position of a late-stage venture capitalist – pick a portfolio of seemingly good bets and expect that a couple of them will pop. Not a bad idea if you’re flush with cash and need some new products.

That was then, this is now. More recent acquisitions are well above venture capital money – Blue Lithium for $300 mln, Zimbra for $350 mln, Maven Networks for $150 mln, and Right Media for $680 mln. As I wrote in a previous article, it seems that Yahoo! gave up cash for a goodwill asset on the balance sheet. More importantly, Yahoo! appears to have become a quilt of media companies, Web 2.0 technologies, and social networking tools that hardly generate revenue.

Back in January on, David Shabelman suggested that Yahoo! consider more acquisitions – possibly of, Expedia, and Shutterfly (among others). At some point, Yahoo! seems almost addicted to acquisitions as if the next one will be their saving grace or missing piece to the puzzle.

Shabelman also suggested that Yahoo! might combine Right Media and BlueLithium and spin out the combined company as an IPO. To break even on the acquisition costs of these two companies, the IPO proceeds would have to exceed $1 billion. To provide some perspective, Vision China’s (VSIN) IPO hit the market at about $544 mln in late 2007 and Digital Domain (DTWO) is scheduled to hit the market at $72-84 mln. This isn’t exactly a thriving IPO market for technology companies.

Corporate finance maneuvers of acquisitions, spin-offs, and juggling won’t save the future of Yahoo! I have more thoughts on this, especially when compared to Google’s ability to grow its business more organically through innovation and development. Stay tuned for more….