Update October 7, 2016. It’s easy to understand why Verizon (VZ) might feel worried about what it might find at Yahoo (YHOO) after a purchase.
After all, in just the last two weeks, after the deal $4.8 billion deal was announced, Yahoo confirmed that it had been hacked in 2014 and that the hackers had made off with user names and passwords on 500 million accounts.
And then just this week news stories revealed that Yahoo had been ordered to scan emails for terrorist signatures by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Any purchaser–especially a purchaser at $4.8 billion–is entitled to better disclosure from the acquisition target than this. You’re not supposed to find out stuff like this by reading the newspapers.
The New York Post is now reporting that Tim Armstrong, who heads up the Internet effort at Verizon built around the company’s earlier acquisition of AOL, is looking to either dump the deal or to reduce the price by $1 billion or so.
I think that the talk about dumping the deal is just that, talk. Acquiring Yahooo is key to Verizon’s plans to become something more than an afterthought in the market for digital advertising revenue now dominated by Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB). (And, as the Post’s reporting points out, it’s hard to see Verizon’s legal case for pulling out of the deal.)
Verizon’s stated goal is to reach 2 billion Internet eyeballs by 2020 and it’s hard to see Verizon getting to that number without Yahoo. Wall Street analysts estimate that if the deal closes in the first quarter, Verizon will have about 1 billion eyeballs from AOL and Yahoo.
Verizon’s share price hasn’t exactly been rocketing higher on the news with the stock going from $51.97 on September 23 to close at $49.92 today. Some of that is due to the general pull back in dividend-paying blue chip stocks as the financial markets start to focus on a December interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve. Some is also due to the usual drop after a high dividend stock goes ex-dividend as Verizon did this week. (So you if were to buy Verizon today, you wouldn’t qualify as a shareholder of record for the upcoming dividend payout. The price of the shares drops to make up for this lack of dividend rights.)
I think the deal makes sense for Verizon at the original price or less (and it’s not like buyers were beating down Yahoo’s door before the Verizon offer so Verizon does have some leverage here) assuming that there’s no other big surprise in the Yahoo cupboard. I added Verizon to my Dividend portfolio back on October 22, 2015. The stock price has gained 14.46% through the close today, October 7.
Disclosure: After not owning any individual stocks while I ran my mutual fund (and then while I was shutting it down) I’ve resumed investing in individual names for my personal account. I own shares of Verizon in one or more of my personal accounts.