Pando

What Facebook should do with the extra $30 billion in market cap it made yesterday: Buy Snapchat

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 29, 2016

From The Disruption Desk

If there’s ever a company that proves the meaninglessness of the first day of trading it’s Facebook. Considered a failure at its IPO, the company seems one of the only tech names having a good 2016. And “good” is putting it mildly.

After impressive earnings, Facebook added some $30 billion to its market cap in one day. And things will likely continue to go up for Facebook, as investors have the typical shit-market flight to quality.

Given its stock is worth so much more than it was 24 hours ago, I’ve got an idea what Facebook could do with that increased feeling of wealth: Finally buy Snapchat. For how much? Doesn’t matter. Pay the price of their last round, some $15 billion. In theory: Facebook could double it.

Why not? Whatsapp was purchased for 10% of Facebook’s market cap at the time. $30 billion would be slightly less than 10% of Facebook now. And I’d argue that Snapchat is almost as strategic.

It’s the singular asset Facebook doesn’t already own when it comes to messaging, which Mark Zuckerberg has already admitted looks like it could be larger than social. Snapchats video views are astoundingly high. Bloomberg has reported that they are within a billion or so of Facebook’s with a paltry 1/15th of the users. It’s only now starting to monetize. Imagine how both of those figures could skyrocket inside Facebook.

Quick aside: I can’t believe I’m writing that about an acquisition. 90% of “synergies” are total bullshit when it comes to M&A. But as I wrote yesterday, one thing that makes Facebook such a singular company is its track record making acquisitions become far more valuable under its roof. (Oculus being the wild card that we’re not quite sure about yet.)

Back to Snapchat. Spiegel was right to turn down $3 billion-- large as that is. But now, the company has to figure out how to build a $15 billion-plus market out of a phenomenon with “only” 100 million users. That will not be easy. Look at Twitter. While Snapchat has an amazing produce and millennial sex appeal, it’s mostly failed at mainstreaming the product. It can learn from Facebook on that.

There are two more reasons for Facebook to buy Snapchat. The first is its fundamentally orthogonal to what Facebook is. It’s very hard for Facebook to build something like this in house. It’s tried once with Poke and failed and tried to incorporate Snapchat like elements into Instagram but it feels off.

Zuckerberg said in his earnings call this week that the company intends to take on Twitter in the market for real time conversation. Snapchat already has. Live stories would be where the most riveting footage of Arab Spring would be today. Instagram has spent years trying to become that, but it’s just not the DNA of the site or what people come to Instagram for.

You really want to own the next version of what Twitter was in text and never became in video? You have to own Snapchat.

Would Spiegel go for this? It depends on a lot of information we can’t know from the outside. How strong his management team really is, what the growth looks like, and how confident on monetization he is. He’s definitely thrown some lobs at Facebook in the past. Snapchat was in many ways started as a reaction against Facebook’s permanence, and he’s jabbed at its love of “creepy” retargeted ads. He’s not under pressure to sell, and in prime position as the lone significant potential challenger.

Still-- as we’ve learned from each of Facebook’s other big purchases who also vowed to stay independent-- everyone has a price. And Zuckerberg has kept his promises of independence he’s made to other purchasees.

If Zuckerberg could take out the only potential competitor on messaging, on next generation real time conversations, and something that represents the opposite of what core-Facebook is, you can argue that’s worth 5%-10% of the company, just like Whatsapp was years ago. The price might seem nuts-- particularly in a time of falling valuations. But it’s certainly in the realm of past “Zuckerberg math.” And its currency has never been stronger.