Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) chief executive Marissa Mayer continued her ambitious roll up of digital properties Tuesday with the $640 million purchase of video advertising company BrightRoll Inc.
The deal is the first major cash purchase that Yahoo! has made since Starboard Value LP criticized the company's M&A spree in a September letter, and since an October earnings call in which Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman defended the company's moves.
Watch the video below to get Jim Cramer's take on Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and her acquisitions:
Shares of Yahoo! gained 98 cents, or 2%, to $50.03 on Wednesday morning.
How Yahoo! deploys its cash has become a charged issue following the initial public offering of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) , which netted the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet group about $6 billion after taxes.
Mayer said in the October earnings call that the company will return most of the cash to shareholders, and reiterated her assurance that Yahoo! management is a "good steward" of its funds.
Does BrightRoll pass the good stewardship test? "It could be worse," said Colin Gillis of BGC Financial LP.
The deal comes to about 6.5 times revenue. Reports had put the price closer to 7 times sales.
BrightRoll's strength is video advertising, and the sector has favorable rates and growth prospects. "They paid up for it but at least its an area where they have the potential to monetize the asset," Gillis said.
Mayer signaled that programmatic advertising, or automated ad sales, would be an area where Yahoo! could make purchases during the October call.
She also indicated that Yahoo! would look for deals that would provide scale, giving shareholders the hint that a purchase could be sizable.
Wells Fargo Securities LLC analyst Peter Stabler wrote that the BrightRoll purchase will "catapult" Yahoo! from 12th place to 5th place on ComScore Inc.'s ranking of video inventory, behind Google Inc. (GOOG) , Facebook Inc. (FB) , SpotXchange Inc. and AOL Inc. (AOL) .
AOL, of course, is Starboard's preferred M&A partner for Yahoo. The New York investment firm suggested that combing Yahoo and AOL would provide more than $1 billion in savings and other benefits.
Wells Fargo's Stabler compared the BrightRoll purchase to Google's 2006 acquisition of YouTube LLC, AOL's purchase of Adap.tv Inc. last year and Facebook's buyout of LiveRail in July.
"Competition for video spend is clearly intensifying," he wrote, "and we believe will further separate scaled players from the video 'middle market.' "
Starboard did not immediately respond to queries on Wednesday morning. The firm has not approved of Mayer's prodigious M&A. Among the "opportunities to unlock tremendous value" that the firm identified in its September letter was "halting Yahoo's aggressive acquisition strategy."
The $1.3 billion Yahoo! has spent on M&A since the second quarter of 2012 had not paid off for shareholders, Starboard asserted.
"Not only do we believe that many of the acquired companies were, and still are, losing a considerable amount of money, but we also believe that these acquisitions, on a combined basis, have failed to deliver material revenue growth," the firm stated.
Yahoo! emphasized that BrightRoll will generate more than $100 million in sales this year, is growing and is profitable in the press release announcing the deal.
The buyer said it expects to close the transaction in the first quarter of 2015.