Verizon emerged as the bidder to beat as the deadline for bids to buy Yahoo closed last week.
The internet company hasn’t been able to spin-off its Asian assets – including its 15 per cent stake in Alibaba – or sell off its core business, which includes everything from search, digital content and advertising to email and messaging. Many analysts are concerned about its ability to do either.
Other front runners include San-Francisco-based private equity firm TPG, and YP Holdings – the digital advertising business which was formerly YellowPages.com. Quarterly earnings are flat, so what has the former giant got to offer them?
First, the firm has a lot of data, which is similar to that held by Google and Facebook, and in large enough quantities to make firms sit up and notice. According to its website, 1bn people use Yahoo every month. On top of that, its ad buying platform, Gemini, holds native ad data which combines in the US with its search platform, all the way up to the second purchase intent data housed within it.
There’s mobile ad data via Flurry, video data through Brightroll, the online video advertising firm it bought in 2014, on top of that coming from Yahoo Mail and its content properties too.
This data is also international, though is arguably limited in comparison to the other two behemoths. And let’s not forget about Tumblr, the microblogging and social network site which was acquired for $1.1bn in 2013, where Yahoo has been seeing increased traction with brands.
In the right hands, that data could have huge potential. In this respect, Verizon’s motivations are probably relatively similar to the reasons it bought AOL last year; an interest in its content and advertising technology. Combining the two assets would significantly hasten its transition from an analogue to a digital business.
Yahoo has been speaking about being a more focused business for some time now. The question for any buyer is: how far along is the company in achieving the total integration of all the pieces of tech it has acquired? If it has succeeded, or is far down the line, an acquirer may be buying a package that is close to becoming a really well integrated suite, which can deliver a single source of the truth across all its properties.
Either way, the tech stack is arguably not as valuable as the data, given the company’s devaluation over the last four years. Unlike Facebook’s triumph with Instagram, Yahoo has failed to turn acquisitions into growth.
Yahoo’s Asian presence is another draw. A buyer would retain its shares in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, which could sweeten the deal for any businesses wanting to expand into Asia Pacific and China.
But the reality is that Yahoo is probably a good proposition for a small number of acquirers. Verizon’s aim of going digital, and its experience acquiring AOL, is what’s putting it at the top of the list. But it’s clear that whoever ends up acquiring Yahoo will need to work hard to turn the tide.