Verizon bets on Armstrong, M&A savvy in Yahoo bid
By Malathi Nayak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N: Quote) is the clear favorite in the upcoming bidding for Yahoo Inc's (YHOO.O: Quote) core Internet business, according to Wall Street analysts, in large part because the telecommunications company's efforts to become a force in Internet content have gone relatively well under the leadership of AOL Inc Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.
Verizon acquired AOL last June for $4.4 billion - its first big foray into the advertising-supported Internet business - and it is not yet clear how well the unit is performing financially. Subsequent moves, including the takeover of much of Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O: Quote) advertising technology business, a deal to buy Millennial Media for about $250 million and the recent launch of the mobile video service go90, are also too recent to assess.
Yet analysts have given the big phone company high marks for allowing AOL to operate independently and folding in other recent acquisitions without much drama. And they said Armstrong seems to be driving Verizon's recent moves in go90 and recent acquisitions.
"The management puts a lot of faith in Armstrong," BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk said.
That faith derives in part from the belief that Armstrong did a good job at left-for-dead AOL, especially in assembling a strong set of products to deliver targeted digital ads to customers.
Combining AOL and Yahoo, an idea that has come up many times over the years, could instantly make Yahoo a major player in Internet advertising, with Armstrong - one of the world's top ad executives - at the helm, analysts said.
Armstrong "has good M&A experience, and a pretty solid ad tech stack,” B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha said.
Verizon's hands-off approach that has worked with AOL, though, might not be suitable if the far-bigger Yahoo were taken over. With Yahoo's struggling business, "the luxury of autonomy is simply not there," Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said. Continued...