Kara Swisher at AllThingsD reported Thursday that Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) was planning to make two “significant” acquisitions (and a half-dozen small buys). It’s unknown what companies Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) might covet, but if recent statements from CEO Marissa Mayer are any indication, both buys will be in the mobile space. Among publicly traded companies, both Yelp Inc (NYSE:YELP) and Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) could make strategic sense.
How much money does Yahoo have to spend?
Before talking about what companies Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) could buy, it’s worth asking the question: What can it afford? On its balance sheet, Yahoo currently has just over $4 billion worth of cash, but this number is deceiving. Some of this is still pledged to repurchasing shares — last year, Yahoo made a $3 billion commitment to buyback much of its own stock.
But Yahoo could raise much, much more. A number of sell-side analysts have, in recent weeks, upgraded the stock on the possibility that it could sell off its Asian assets: its remaining stake in Alibaba, and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) Japan. Combined, these could net the company over $20 billion, according to Cantor Fitzgerald. With that sort of war chest, Yahoo could go after all but the largest tech companies.
Many investors may have assumed that cash from asset sales would be returned directly to shareholders. After all, that seems to be what Dan Loeb (the hedge fund manager who shook up the company last year) wants. But after Yahoo sold the first half of Alibaba in the summer, Mayer hinted that the money might be channeled into acquisitions. Meanwhile, Loeb has been reducing his position. Perhaps the money from the Asian assets could be used for American acquisitions after all.
Mayer has been focused on the mobile space
Since taking over Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Mayer has shown a dedicated focus to the mobile web. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mayer talked about Yahoo’s strategy:
“When I thought about the strategy for Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), I pulled the list of what people do on their phones in rank-order frequency…the list looks like email, check the weather, check news, get financial quotes, check sports scores, play games, share photos…I’d recite that list…and I would say what am I doing? And my friends and family would say, ‘You’re describing Yahoo’s business.'”
Mayer clearly wants to maintain a focus on providing the best apps and services for the mobile Internet experience. With that in mind, any big acquisitions that Yahoo is likely to make would probably fall within that realm.