OMG! Instagram and Facebook! Everybody freak out!
Here’s a different piece of news that would be significant, were it not overshadowed by today’s big tech darling news: AOL’s stock is up by almost 50%.
This morning, AOL sold around $1 billion worth of patents to Microsoft, and Wall Street seemed incredibly impressed. The struggling company’s stock has been up all day on the news. It leaves AOL with around $15 in cash per share.
The question is whether the boost is superficial. It’s essentially unloading the company’s most sellable assets, and that after some fairly deep rounds of layoffs. Patent sales in the tech world are not the mark of a thriving company, if the Motorola Mobility or Nortel patent deals are any indication.
Still, AOL benefitted from what might be deemed a patent arms race between Google and Microsoft. The portfolio went for around $1.2m per patent, which is higher than the per-patent price of $700,000 to $800,000 that Motorola Mobility netted on its portfolio sale to Google.
What will it do with that $15 per share? AOL’s strategy of buying up content properties like HuffPo, while its dial-up business declines, is a questionable one. For the past several years, it has felt like all options are on the table at AOL, but most of its assets just aren’t that attractive. But now that the company has a little money to play with, investors are less bearish.
Speaking of billion-dollar deals, AT&T sold its Yellow Pages businesses to Cerberus Capital Management, a turnaround buyout firm most known for its failed ownership of Chrysler. Yellow Pages have been a favorite of turnaround buyout firms, even though like encyclopedias, maps, and phone booths, they have been rendered mostly useless by the Internet.
All of that is to say, today is a big day for tech M&A bankers.