InfoSpace (NASDAQ:INSP) flexed its market cap muscle yesterday with its after-the-bell land-grab of Web portal Go2Net (NASDAQ:GNET). The $4 billion deal pays Go2Net less than a 50% premium over its Wednesday close, but considering deep-pocketed Vulcan Ventures has given its blessing to the merger along with top banana Russell Horowitz, it suggests insiders are consolidating while the going’s still good.
For InfoSpace, the acquisition adds another feather to its cap. The company has made some aggressive moves recently to boost its position in the Internet and wireless content space, and Go2Net adds a handful of valuable offerings to its repertoire. Web enthusiasts and armchair investors are probably most familiar with Silicon Investor, one of the Net’s first and arguably largest financial communities, or Go2Net’s MetaCrawler, also one of the first meta search engines on the Web.
While InfoSpace’s original business model centered largely around its co-brandable portal directory, like many portals and content players, the company has embraced Wall Street’s latest hot wireless trend. But rather than a toe-in-the-water approach, the company has undergone a permanent makeover that’s included dropping its dot-com moniker and inking a bevy of meat and potato deals with major wireless carriers.
After the dust settled, InfoSpace has emerged a leading enabler of Internet wireless applications and with it, a market cap that nearly rivals the likes of e-tailing giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) or online auctioneer eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). By establishing key partnerships with Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Wireless (NYSE:AWE), and SBC Communications , InfoSpace has effectively aligned itself with blue chip carriers that blanket over three quarters of the domestic wireless market. Punctuating its wireless initiative, InfoSpace tapped former Vodafone AirTouch (NYSE:VOD) exec Arun Sarin to take the reins as CEO in April.
The success story for Go2Net, on the other hand, has been the road less traveled. The upstart dove into the new issues market back in the mid-90s and received mixed reviews from analysts and investors alike. No matter how hard the newcomer toiled alongside sexier portals like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Excite (NASDAQ:ATHM), and Lycos (NASDAQ:LCOS), Go2Net never quite seemed to command comparable respect from the investment community.
Despite its slow start, the company’s luck started changing once investors took notice of its strong revenue growth and eye toward profitability. When hemorrhaging losses still ruled the day, Go2Net was one of only a handful of moneymaking dot-coms. With a massive cash investment from billionaire tycoon Paul Allen early last year, Go2Net joined an elite group of so-called Internet blue chips. With Allen’s windfall, the company also boasted one of the cash-wealthiest war chests amongst its peers.
Today, the two companies converge on top of their respective games. Separately, the futures of InfoSpace and Go2Net continue to look promising; but as a combined entity, the pair will be a dominant force competing with the Net’s who’s-who. Together, the two Web properties will reach a target audience comparable to the top 10 most trafficked sites on the Internet. InfoSpace gets a profitable, cash-rich partner, while Go2Net adds a sexy, new chapter to its life cycle.