Sorry to Get You All A-Twitter, but Google Is Not in "Late-Stage Talks" to Acquire the Hot Microblogging Service
While the “news” that Google was in “late-stage” talks to acquire Twitter, which TechCrunch reported last night, certainly sounds exciting, it isn’t accurate in any way, according to a number of sources BoomTown spoke to close to the situation.
In fact, Twitter and Google (GOOG) have simply been engaged in “some product-related discussions,” according to one source, around real-time search and the search giant better crawling the microblogging service.
Said a source close to Twitter: “There was a discussion with [Google executive Marissa Mayer’s] group about real-time search and about product stuff. It was a couple weeks ago. It was very preliminary…and that was that.”
More importantly, said another source about the idea of an imminent acquisition or serious or even early talks: “Seriously, no negotiations, no deal, nada.”
So for all those Twitterers madly typing 140 characters and caught up in the grand idea of Twoogle, we return you to your regularly scheduled tweeting.
Of course, there has been a lot of analysis, put forth by many, including me, that Google should think about acquiring Twitter.
It is the microblogging service’s likeliest acquirer, in fact. And there is no question Twitter is being watched closely by Google.
But sources at Google stressed that a strong partnership–especially in light of the growing size of the Facebook social-networking site–is what the company is most interested in at this point in time.
That could change at any time, of course. Google or anyone else could plunk down more than $1 billion in cash, and I cannot imagine Twitter’s investors would or could resist. Nor should they.
And what if, for example, Microsoft (MSFT) offered some huge cash payday for Twitter? In that case, I am certain Google would jump into the faceoff, backing up a giant Brinks trunk to the door of Twitter’s San Francisco offices.
And the reaction such an idea has gotten with this round of rumors will surely be studied at Google.
But this is all just pure speculation and should be couched as that. And that does not mean there are talks going on now, as TechCrunch reported so firmly.
And that’s also true for a range of other companies–from Microsoft to Yahoo (YHOO) to News Corp. (NWS) to Time Warner (TWX) unit AOL to Cisco (CSCO) to Comcast (CMCSA) to the big telcos–that would also be interested in buying Twitter or partnering with it.
And Facebook already tried and failed to buy Twitter last year, which BoomTown chronicled in a post in November, for $500 million in cash and stock of the social-networking service.
Why? Because although Twitter is still small, with seven million users, it has a definite momentum in the red-hot real-time online status update space.
And while I give it a hard time for its utter lack of a business plan or revenue to speak of, the well-funded Twitter is also at the beginning of a long runway of possibility that could yield it a higher price later, if it so chose to sell at all.
Moreover, if Twitter’s investors and founders wanted to sell, they wouldn’t have taken a recent round at $230 million valuation, because it would imply a $750 million to $1 billion purchase price, and no one could pay that right now.
Even the mighty Google could not–which does not typically overpay for companies.
More likely, Google would surely get killed by investors for spending that much on a revenue-free company, especially since it is still getting beat up for the pricey YouTube deal it made when times were great.
Lastly, Twitter’s founders have expressed the desire to take the company out for a longer ride, even if some of its investors would love to cash out if offered a crazy price.
“Why would the company do something like this right now?” said a source close to Twitter, in a typical sentiment. “The company’s on a tear right now.”
In fact, last night in an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone explicitly said Twitter planned to be a “strong, profitable, independent company.”
While entrepreneurs have said this and then quickly sold out, it is not the case now for Twitter, unless it got some insane offer, said numerous sources.
TechCrunch, which slapped a loud headline on its first post, “Sources: Google in Late-Stage Talks to Buy Twitter,” then changed it to “Sources: Google in Talks to Acquire Twitter (Updated).”
What’s next? “Google and Twitter Have a Lovely Organic Lunch and Discuss Trading T-Shirts (Updated Update)”?
The TechCrunch report, penned by Michael Arrington, also added a let’s-just-cover-all-our-bases update at the bottom of the ever-changing post that then hedged the news it had just hyped.
This is not new for the tech blog, especially related to Google.
On July 28, 2008, TechCrunch reported: “Google In Final Negotiations To Acquire Digg For ‘Around $200 Million,'” and said there was a letter of intent signed.
While the pair did hold ultimately unsuccessful talks, they never got even close to final.
And on February 6, 2008, TechCrunch had a post with the headline, “Rumor: Is Google About to Buy Bebo For $1 Billion To $1.5 Billion? Or Will it Be MySpace?”
Hmm, not so much on the about to buy Bebo. In fact, Google was never in what could be described as serious talks, and Bebo was sold to AOL, the lone bidder, for $850 million a month later.
Thus, the third time is, no surprise, not a charm either.
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.