2015 was a tough year for Yahoo and its Chief Executive, Marissa Meyer.
News hit yesterday that the multimedia firm would explore strategic options. According to the press release, these options would include the company doubling down on its existing media properties, like Yahoo Finance, and jettisoning other business line that aren’t core to the business.
Analysts aren’t convinced of the plan, saying it kind of felt that Meyer and the BOD both wanted different things. Eric Jackson, an activist investor lobbying for change at Yahoo, said that the plan was essentially just trying to “split the baby”: the firm will keep trying to do its reverse spin plan (something he called, “not credible”) and at the same time, pursue other alternatives.
Lost in the mix of all this discussion is Yahoo Finance, still after all these years, one of the largest financial websites. According to analysis by Digiday, though its peers are making major headway, Yahoo Finance in still at the top of the pecking order in most traffic metrics — its 52.3m monthly pageviews in April 2015 were followed most closely by the 40.8m produced by Business Insider. Same for video: Yahoo Finance’s 11.5m eclipsed the desktop video views on Forbes, Bloomberg, and CNBC. With similar viewer demographics shared by the top finance sites, by all accounts, Yahoo Finance is a valuable property.
But talk about Yahoo putting itself up for sale begs the question: what’s to be of Yahoo Finance? In spite of all the tumult and the chaos surrounding Yahoo, its finance property is still one of the largest financial and business websites in the world.
So, who would be interested in buying Yahoo Finance? Tradestreaming produced the following list of suspects:
- Axel Springer: Based in Berlin, Axel Springer is one of the largest European media firms. It’s hard to believe there would be interest in acquiring YF after the company bought Business Insider for $450m in September of 2015. That said, the combination of the YF firehose of traffic with the BI’s content volume could be an interesting pairing.
- Financial Times: Insiders were genuinely surprised when Nikkei, Japan’s largest media firm, emerged as the buyer of the venerable FT for £844m ($1.3 billion) from Pearson. The Economist quipped that the “stratospherically high” price the Nikkei was paying (2.5x revenues) would probably limit the media conglomerate’s ability to invest further in building out the property. So, ostensibly, the FT/Nikkei will sit on the sidelines.
- News Corp: Rupert Murdoch’s media firm acquired the Dow Jones companies for $5.6 billion back in 2007. The purchase brought the Wall Street Journal under Murdoch’s purview but also Barron’s and MarketWatch. Digital-only subscriptions reached 819k in 2015, up more than 125k year over year. Yahoo Finance could provide another ecosystem to acquire customers and sell ads for Dow Jones. This could be interesting for both firms.
- Verizon: In December of last year, Verizon emerged as a potential suitor for Yahoo’s entire business. Bloomberg explained the telecommunication’s interest in Yahoo derived from the fact that it staked its future on mobile Internet and video growth, making it bosom buddies with Yahoo. Verizon already paid over $4 billion to acquire AOL, which has DailyFinance as its horse in the finance/business race. Though there’s not a lot of overlap in audiences, Yahoo Finance may find a home at Verizon as part of a larger acquisition.
- Forbes: The business media company will turn 100 years old next year and recently sold a majority of its holdings to Integrated Whale Media Investments, a Hong Kong-based firm. Things haven’t been going so smoothly between the new partners (there’s a law suit) and consequently, both sides aren’t likely looking for any other financial transactions for the time being.
- Bloomberg: The media arm of the financial terminal business continues to grow its headcount and its media coverage to complement its hardware business. Remember, Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek from McGrawHill. BloombergBusinessweek serves as the company’s print product. So, it’s no stranger to buying media businesses and is a fairly regular acquirer of data businesses. It may have an interest in adding in Yahoo Finance, given the portal’s positioning to news, content, and charting.
- Private equity: Yahoo Finance, if it were to be sold separately from the rest of the media organization, appears to be ripe for a private equity acquirer. Shore up traffic and monetization efforts, make the firm more efficient and it could be a very prescient investment for the right kind of investor. Going the PE route depends on how likely Yahoo is at this point to entertain outside offers for parts of its company.
Yahoo Finance, in spit of all of its parents travails, is still going strong. But, it can be so much more in the right hands.