Our pals at TechCrunch are floating this rumour: Either Google or News Corp./MySpace will buy social networking site Bebo for $1 billion plus. Erick’s clever hedge is to post the odds of this one being true at 50% — that is, it’s a coin flip.
OK, we’ll play along. If we have to pick one of the supposed suitors, we’re going with Google, hands down. Not only can Google pay for this without blinking an eye (an all-stock deal would cost GOOG less than 1% of market cap), but it’s got a genuine need: It has yet to gain any traction in social networking. Orkut’s popularity in Brazil is great, but it doesn’t do Google much good in the UK, where Bebo is a big deal.
Meanwhile, News Corp. could technically afford Bebo, but it’d be much more expensive for Rupert Murdoch (recall that he’s just shelled out more than $5 billion for a newspaper). Rupe has also just said he’s not in the mood for a big acquisition: “We’re not considering anything of any significance at this moment. But we’ll see what comes along… Historically we’ve done better with startups than with purchases.”
Most important: After a slow ramp, MySpace’s monetization efforts are just starting to catch on. Trying to integrate another large social network, in a company that’s not brimming with engineering talent to begin with, is a real risk. And we’re not sure it’s one we’re not sure Rupe would take at this point. Then again, we could be wrong. It’s a coin flip.
Update: “100% Chance Of Wrongness!” declares Kara Swisher, who does note that Bebo is in the midst of a funding round, and that either Google or NWS could be investors. And, she says, potential investors Yahoo and Microsoft have both expressed interest in buying the whole company, though that interest has been “preliminary” and probably not a front-burner item for either company right now.
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