Tags: yahoo | internet | google | Dot-Com | Value | Play

A Dot-Com Value Play? Don’t Laugh …

Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011 02:22 PM

Once upon a time, the Internet was going to change the world. Really. And if you bought big into the Nasdaq during those days, you were sorely disappointed, of course.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the dot-com boosters were wrong about the leveling power of information on the Internet. They could be accused of hype, as could Wall Street (no change in the story there), but the underlying trend is hard to dismiss: In sector after sector, the web is in fact making new winners and new losers. Just ask any newspaper or cable-TV operator. Even banks face competitors they used to ignore.

Is it time to buy back into the dusty, old dot-com names? Perhaps not yet, but a few of them still have compelling, if muddled, businesses and plenty of eyeballs.

Here’s one to consider. Yahoo (YHOO) was the original king of the web, destined to control nearly all users (or so we were told) thanks to its highly popular indexes of web content. Then Google came along with the search engine and that advantage quickly disappeared.

End of story? Not so fast. Yahoo has converted itself into a media operation with few peers and its Yahoo Mail offering continues to anchor millions into its news-rich home pages.

A new deal with Microsoft’s search engine Bing should allow the company to focus on monetizing all those users. As of March, Bing now accounts for 30 percent of U.S. searches compared to Google’s 64 percent. Yahoo recently launched a new “Search Direct” feature meant to compete with “Google Instant,” which updates results as fast as you type into the search box.

Caris & Company initiated Yahoo at a buy nearly a year ago and it has been essentially flat since. That said, the company’s analyst for Yahoo, Sandeep Aggarwal, predicted the search-engine deal with Microsoft many months prior to its fruition.

In a recent blog post, the analyst suggests that Yahoo is positioned to lead a coming M&A boom in the tech space, citing its $3.6 billion in cash. Aggarwal lumps Yahoo in with more obvious high-fliers such as Google, Amazon, and eBay.

“The innovation cycle has accelerated for the Internet in the last two to three years, fueled by social, mobile and local. These themes have given birth to hundreds of private Internet companies that are gaining traction,” he writes.

“As a result, we expect a very strong pipeline for Internet M&A and IPOs in the next 18 months, also supported by healthy capital markets and arguably no misalignment on valuation multiples expectations.”

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