Could Google buy Twitter?
Analysts suggest that the search engine giant could be considering an acquisition soon.
Google (GOOG) is the leading search engine, but there's one area where the company's software prowess fails: real-time search.
It's an area that Twitter dominates, and savvy Internet users know to turn to the site first for the very latest news and discussions. That, combined with Twitter's ongoing struggles to turn a profit that matches its outsized Internet presence, has made Twitter a very attractive acquisition candidate.
Yahoo (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT), News Corp. (NWSA) and Google are among the companies believed to be looking at Twitter. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.) But perhaps Google might be the best match for the young company.
A lack of profitability did not stop Facebook from acquiring Instagram for $1 billion, and few believe that it will stop Twitter from also being snatched up.
Historically, the best acquisitions don't involve companies that could be profitable. They involve companies that are already making money. But just as YouTube fell into Google's (GOOG) hands as a streaming video infant with only hopes and dreams in its eyes, Twitter would do the same for its buyer. The only difference is that it would provide its new owner with the potential to monetize several hundred million users from day one. That -- and the breathtaking potential to milk the analytics -- is more than enough of a reason to inspire the world's leading tech companies to make Twitter an offer.
But which (if any) of the aforementioned corporations is most likely to gain control of the social media website? Needham analyst Kerry Rice told Benzinga that Twitter might make sense as a search play for Google, as the company could inspire users to shift its Twitter searching needs to Google.com (or integrate Google search into Twitter -- or both). Rice said that he has no idea if this buyout will actually occur, but it seems to be the one that makes the most sense.
Aaron Kessler of Raymond James has a similar viewpoint, though he believes that the company already pays Twitter to search tweets. Kessler thinks that it would make the most sense for Google to incorporate Twitter into the Google+ social network to expand its social media participation. But Kessler is also unsure that this deal will actually happen.
When it comes to any other suitors, analysts are less positive about a deal.
Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter told Benzinga that there is no way Yahoo could afford to buy it. For the company to pull off an acquisition of this magnitude, Yahoo would have to perform some creative financing with Asian assets, Schachter said.
Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen has a different take on the matter, saying that while Yahoo could theoretically acquire Twitter, he does not think that it makes sense due to the company's broader overall strategy. Instead, Pyykkonen believes that Time Warner (TWX) or News Corp. are more likely to buy the social media empire.
But not all analysts agree that News Corp. will invest in another social media firm.
"News Corp. got burned on the MySpace deal," an analyst (who declined to be named because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter) told Benzinga this week. "[It] doesn't appear to know how to manage these Internet companies well."
What do you think? Who is going to make the first move?
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Ahead of Twitter's second-quarter earnings release, analysts are largely bullish, and investors are watching several metrics closely, especially user growth.
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