Crazy acquisition – $16B+ for WhatsApp!

This is really unbelievable! Facebook announced it is acquiring WhatsApp for $12B in Facebook stock and $4B in cash. On top of it, it will fork $3B worth of stocks for the WhatsApp executives and employees for retention. These numbers when I saw came as a total surprise. First, I thought a decimal point is missing somewhere. But no, they are real. Why did Facebook decide to pay that hefty price?

I think it is a mobile war. WhatsApp is an instant messaging application which costs practically nothing (after you pay one-time 99 cents fee). I am a user and so are another 450 million people. Apparently it is very popular with teenagers, who shun Facebook. So this is a growth statement for Facebook as it looks for new users globally. Zuckerberg said the number of users will reach a billion this year. Kara Swisher said earlier today – “Translation: We have now established a price floor for what it costs not to have a mobile operating system in a world in which having a mobile operating system counts for an awful lot these days.”

I also liked what she said about Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – “It’s a little like deciding to be Disney, said one source, owning all the good content brands. If Facebook is Disney (by the way, its COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is on the entertainment giant’s board), then Instagram is the Disney Channel (the kids love it!) and WhatsApp is ESPN (everyone loves it!).”

It is of course great news for the founders and employees at WhatsApp, plus it brings $3B to Sequoia for its $60M investment. Not a bad return as it covers their entire fund of $1.5B. Time will tell how Facebook will leverage this into their overall roadmap of digital connectivity as they seem to pay any price for growing their social networking leadership.

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