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4 Companies That Could and Should Buy Twitter

These firms have the best shot at turning Twitter to profitability.

Andy Melton via Fickr

A week or so ago, yours truly here penned some thoughts about why Twitter Inc. (TWTR) would finally get bought out after years of such rumors making their rounds.

The core of the acquisition rationale ultimately had to do with the value of Twitter stock and the subsequent market cap for the company — each of the microblogging platform’s regular users would only cost a suitor about $46.

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It sounds like a lot, but considering Facebook Inc. (FB) paid $42 per user when it bought WhatsApp in 2014, not to mention the fact that each Facebook user is now worth (relative to the company’s market cap) more than $200 apiece, $46 per head doesn’t seem like much.

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There was another dimension to the discussion: Which potential buyer has the best shot at doing something fruitful with Twitter users? They are, after all, a crowd that prefers fewer bells and whistles. They’re not even big on an abundance of words.

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It’s this nuance, in fact, that may be more of a factor than the suppressed value of Twitter Inc when it comes to a Twitter acquisition.

Who’s Going to Buy It?

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Ask ten fans and followers of TWTR stock which peer or competitor is most likely to make a play on Twitter, and you’ll get at least four or five different answers. There’s a clear leader among the presumed frontrunner of a Twitter deal, however, and that’s Alphabet Inc. (GOOG, GOOGL).

It’s not bad logic. Alphabet has been fairly cozy with Twitter of late, adding tweets to Google’s search results (in near real time) as of late last year, at least for desktop searches. There’s been no measurable direct impact on revenue for either company, although one could argue that giving web users more of what they wanted with their searches is good for Google, while giving Twitter more traffic is clearly good for Twitter.

It’s also clear that much of what Alphabet touches turns to gold sooner or later. A blogging and social media platform, however, may be an exception to that norm.

Yes, part of the reason one can and should have doubts about Google wanting or effectively using Twitter is its disappointment that was Google Plus. Google just never knew quite what it was supposed to be. It may not fully “get” Twitter either, and knows it. Something would have to change to make it work.

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That leaves Facebook as Twitter’s most likely suitor.

Too obvious? You’ll get no disagreement from me that the premise is far too predictable to actually predict; the market has a penchant for dishing out surprises. This is a union that makes too much sense to not expect, however.

As much as Twitter has tried not to be like Facebook, the two organizations are much more alike than they are different. If Facebook could spin Twitter as “Facebook Lite” to advertisers as well as users, it just might catch on in a way it hasn’t yet.

Proponents of this theory can also point out that WhatsApp and Instagram were a bit out of Facebook’s wheelhouse at one time, and Facebook acquired them both anyway.

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That said, there’s still one more serious contender in this race, with better odds of doing a deal than you might expect.

The third-place possibility (behind Alphabet, which is next in line after Facebook) is …

Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ). Don’t laugh. Remember, this is the same company that is moving into new territory with its recent purchase of Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO).

Verizon clearly thinks it can do more with Yahoo than CEO Marissa Mayer was ever able to do with it. One of the main reasons Verizon wanted Yahoo was to leverage Yahoo’s growing presence in the mobile video market, perhaps transforming it into an outright over-the-top television alternative.

Don’t forget that Verizon is wading deeper into the flexible television market with its FIOS skinny bundles, and Twitter already has a relationship with the NFL — perhaps the biggest draw in professional sports — broadcasting live games. It would be a real coup for Verizon to add the NFL to its list of content partners.

Finally, although a distant fourth in terms of odds, it wouldn’t be completely stunning if Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) set its sights on Twitter. Amazon just wants to have a constant, in-your-face presence, and is willing to pay any price to get it. Twitter would be a step in that direction, particularly on the AI front.

Besides, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos doesn’t mind trying crazy things, even if his failures cost a fortune. At the very least it would be interesting to see where he might take Twitter.

Bottom Line for Twitter Stock

While the prospects for a Twitter acquisition are rising, that alone is still a lousy sole reason to own TWTR stock. There’s no certainty as to when, or even if, Twitter will actually attract a groom.

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The possibility of a buyout in conjunction with even just a mildly compelling reason to own TWTR in case a deal doesn’t pan out, however, makes Twitter stock an interesting speculation.

You could certainly do a lot worse.

This article is from James Brumley of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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