Can AOL Get a Higher Offer?
Shortly after the opening bell, AOL’s stock traded above Verizon’s offer price, and at a new 52-week high. AOL stock had risen from around $37 a share a year ago to over $42 a share at Monday’s close, and following a jump of more than 10% after AOL reported first-quarter earnings last Friday.
AOL’s global advertising revenues rose 12% year-over-year in the first quarter and the number of U.S. average monthly visitors to AOL’s platforms also rose 12%. With both revenues and visitor numbers growing, AOL had made itself an attractive target for wireless companies, cable companies and satellite companies looking to expand into content for a reasonable price.
More interesting to potential acquirers, perhaps, is AOL’s position as an online video content property, where it ranks third behind Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) sites and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) with nearly 67 million unique viewers in February of this year. AOL’s video ad platform ranks fourth with a reach of 39.7% of the U.S. population.
Wall Street likes — or should like — AOL’s ad platform and the position it has carved out for itself in the online video space, a sector that Verizon noted in its announcement is a potential $600 billion global advertising industry.
At $50 a share and a total of $4.4 billion, Verizon’s offer is certainly open to some competition. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) may be distracted by its proposed acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) and will not make a competing bid, but Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), which recently withdrew its $42 billion offer for Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), may see another opportunity here, even though it would be a much smaller deal than the failed bid for Time Warner.
Whether a competitive bid will materialize is purely speculative, but it might be even more surprising if another offer is not forthcoming. There are not a lot of opportunities like this out there.