The wires are buzzing with rumours that Barry Diller’s InterActive Corp (IAC) is set to buy the Internet search engine service Ask Jeeves for almost $2bn.
Ask Jeeves is currently the fifth-largest search-engine provider on the Internet and the company also owns the popular ask.com, Bloglines and Excite Web sites.
In the UK, Ask Jeeves is the seventh most popular search site with 1.9 per cent of total searches, dwarfed by Google who weigh in with a mighty 63 per cent of total searches.
IAC already owns assorted Web properties including CitySearch, Expedia, Hotels.com, TicketMaster, dating site Match.com and the Home Shopping Network.
CitySearch offers localised search results for businesses, bars, cinemas and restaurants.
The reported US$1.9 billion price tag is something like 35 times AskJeeves’ 2004 earnings from continuing operations of US$52.4 million, and is 27 times its 2004 pro forma earnings from continuing operations of US$71.1 million (this excludes items like depreciation and amortisation).
About US$1.2 billion of the purchase price will be in cash, the New York Times reported (although we don’t think they mean used wads of dollars stuffed in suitcases).
Today’s expected announcement shows that search sites are still attracting investors and that there’s rich pickings to be gained with Microsoft recently following Google and Yahoo into paid-for-search advertising.
We tried to check the story by visiting Ask Jeeves and typing in, “are you being bought by InterActive Corp?”
Disappointingly, the search engine failed to find the answer.