Ask Jeeves $2B sale near?
WSJ: IAC to acquire search engine in all-stock deal that's a 40% premium over Friday's close.
March 21, 2005: 5:56 AM EST
NEW YORK (Reuters) - IAC/InterActiveCorp, an Internet conglomerate run by media mogul Barry Diller, is near a deal to buy Web search service Ask Jeeves Inc., sources familiar with the matter say.
The Wall Street Journal, which reported the deal first, said late Sunday that IAC would pay $2 billion in stock, a 40 percent premium to Ask Jeeves' market capitalization Friday.
Neither Ask Jeeves (Research) nor IAC (Research) were immediately available for comment.
IAC has a variety of Internet businesses, including Home Shopping Network, Web directory Citysearch and online mortgage provider LendingTree. It also owns travel Web site Expedia, which it plans to spin off.
Ask Jeeves' Web site Ask.com is known for its cartoon butler mascot Jeeves, who was known during the Internet boom of the late 1990s for providing the answer to queries made in the form of a question.
The reported price implies IAC would pay about $33.90 a share for Ask Jeeves, compared with a close of $24.24 Friday on the Nasdaq. That would be below the $44.66 52-week high the stock hit in April and the $34.99 it closed at on Oct. 27, when the company reported earnings that sparked worries about growth and pushed the stock down 24 percent in one day.
Other Internet companies have also received rich valuations recently as they have become hot properties once again. The New York Times Co. (Research), for instance, agreed to buy information portal About.com for $410 million while Dow Jones & Co. Inc. (Research) paid $528 million for financial news Web site MarketWatch.
Ask Jeeves would be one in a stream of acquisitions for IAC, which earlier this month said it would buy catalog and online retailer Cornerstone Brands for $720 million to expand across multiple retail outlets.
It would put IAC more directly in competition with larger search sites run by Google Inc. (Research), Yahoo Inc. (Research) and Microsoft Corp. (Research) Ask Jeeves partners with Google to earn advertising revenue from its Web search functions.
Oakland, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves nearly doubled in size last year when it bought Interactive Search Holdings for $501 million in May. That included web properties such as My Way, iWon, Excite, My Search and My Web Search.