OpenTable Investors Queasy After Google-Zagat Meal, Er, Deal

OpenTable’s shares tumbled more than 10 percent during the day, following the announcement that Google was buying local review site Zagat.

By the end of the day’s trading, the restaurant booking site had regained some ground, closing down only eight percent, or $5.23 to $57.50 a share.

But at least one analyst called the market’s bluff, concluding that the purchase did not mean Google was interested in competing with OpenTable.

OpenTable currently accounts for 10 percent of all diners who end up being seated in a restaurant, while Google mostly gains customer reviews and surveys from Zagat.

“The risk here … is that this marks Google’s attempt to compete directly with OpenTable in the Restaurant Reservation segment. For now, we don’t believe it,” wrote Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney in a note to clients. “Although Google has thrown a few surprises by us recently, we see it as highly unlikely that Google would want to enter the salesforce-intensive/truck-roll/hardware & software-install Restaurant Reservation business.”

Mahaney also noted that there’s little risk that traffic to OpenTable will fall because of the deal.

Today, only five to 10 percent of all reservations come from third-party networks like Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Zagat, etc. OpenTable, for example, is the exclusive restaurant reservation service on Zagat. Another review site, UrbanSpoon, was purchased by IAC two years ago. IAC, which owns a very diverse portfolio of businesses, saw its stock sink 15 cents today to close at $39.53.

Citigroup reiterated its buy and said its current price target is $82 a share.

The purchase of Zagat is likely a bigger blow to Yelp, which is still seeking an exit of its own after turning down a half-billion-dollar offer from Google two years ago. The companies are not completely alike. Yelp has been fairly successful in gaining a very broad audience, especially since Zagat charges for many of its publications and mobile applications — a very un-Google approach.

Google said this morning that Zagat will work closely with its search and maps divisions, but it also would make sense for it to work closely with Google Offers, which is trying to be the local deals equivalent to Groupon.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus