Audible ( ADBL) shares climbed higher in Monday trading after an analyst suggested that the company could be a takeover target. Shares of the downloadable audio-content company cruised up 6.8%, or 52 cents, to $8.17 in afternoon trading. Darren Aftahi, an analyst with ThinkEquity Partners, wrote in a Monday note that Audible's depressed enterprise value might spark potential suitors like Apple ( AAPL) or RealNetworks ( RNWK) to buy the company. "We believe that Apple makes sense, given its exclusive relationship with Audible. However, since Apple is more focused on selling hardware than content, RealNetworks is a more strategic fit," Aftahi wrote. He gives the company an accumulate rating, saying it is a good time for investors to accrue shares. Audible's subscription-based audio book and other spoken word content would complement RealNetworks' subscription music, games and video services, Aftahi said. "We believe Audible would make strategic sense, providing RealNetworks with a new avenue of growth for its business," Aftahi wrote. ThinkEquity Partners makes a market in the companies mentioned. Another observer was skeptical of Audible as a takeover candidate but said the company has a lot to offer investors. "I think a lot of the sentiment on the stock reflects a short-term view of the opportunity right now," said Richard Fetyko, an analyst with Merriman Curhan Ford. "I think the opportunity for this company is a lot bigger than a lot of people give it credit for." He pointed out that the company is working to expand its markets, moving into
comedy , educational and religious content. Earlier this year, the company signed a deal to sell podcasts of The Ricky Gervais Show. Last week, Audible announced that Sony Ericsson would preload its smartphones with the Audible service. Fetyko has a buy rating on the stock. Fetyko also noted the upcoming inflection point of wireless connectivity. Currently, downloading content is a two-step process for most customers that involves downloading the audio file and then transferring it to a portable device. Once wireless connectivity to phones and portable players is more widespread, "it's a much more convenient, easier, on-demand solution. I think the content usage will go up dramatically."
Fetyko believes if a company were to buy Audible, Apple would be a more likely candidate given the close ties between the companies. Audible software is installed on Apple iPods, and the company has an exclusive relationship with Apple iTunes. Fetyko's outfit makes a market in Audible, but he does not own the stock and his firm does not have a banking relationship with company. Audible is scheduled to report its second-quarter earnings on July 27.