After a trickle of deals in 2007, this year has seen a flood of acquisitions of social networking sites as buyers look to sell advertising and services around these properties. Acquirers have spent some $1.15bn already on networking sites, compared to just $95m in all of 2007. This year’s M&A was boosted by several key service providers making significant bets on the market, including AOL’s $850m purchase of Bebo and Comcast’s acquisition of Plaxo for an estimated $150m. (Both deals, we should note, are larger than last year’s collective tally for social networking sites.)
And it’s not just the obvious acquirers picking up these online sites. Mobile phone maker Nokia shelled out an estimated $30m for geo-social networker Plazes, while Hoover’s, primarily known as a business directory, bought into the Web 2.0 trend with its tiny $4.2m acquisition of Visible Path. Even Barry Diller went shopping in this market, with his IAC/InterActiveCorp’s purchase of Girlsense.com.
Despite the broad interest and appetite for social networking sites, we wonder if supply hasn’t outstripped demand. At last count, there were more than 130 networks of various stripes. With only two companies (Facebook and LinkedIn) likely to go public anytime soon, that leaves a slew of sites hoping to connect with buyers. Coming off a 1,200% increase in M&A from last year, we can only surmise that the number of deals – and, more important, the valuations handed out to the sites – is likely to come down.
Acquisitions of social networking sites
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase