Verizon has announced that it will acquire AOL for $4.4 billion, with the deal expected to bolster the carrier's advertising efforts in the mobile video segment.
Verizon is launching an mobile-focused video service later this year, and has already inked content deals with several content providers, including the NFL. The carrier will offer paid and ad-supported tiers, which is where AOL's advertising platform — which counts over 30,000 partners — comes in handy.
Following the closure of the deal, AOL will continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon, with current CEO Tim Armstrong staying on-board to lead AOL's day-to-day operations. In a memo sent to staffers, Armstrong said:
Today, we are announcing that the largest and most innovative wireless and cable company – and the one investing the most in high quality mobile content – is acquiring AOL with the strategy of building the biggest media platform in the world. The company is Verizon and the deal will game-change the size and scale of AOL's opportunity. Just as AOL has propelled The Huffington Post, Adap.tv, TechCrunch, and other companies we have acquired, Verizon will propel AOL and comes to the table with over 100 million mobile consumers, content deals with the likes of the NFL, and a meaningful strategy in mobile video.
The decision to enter into an agreement with Verizon was made over a long and thoughtful time period and both companies see significant opportunity to service consumers and customers in a differentiated and exciting way. On a personal level, the decision to go forward with an agreement was predicated on giving our talent the best opportunity to build a multi-decade business that would be deeply growth oriented and aimed directly at the platform shift that video and mobile are offering the world – today and 20 years from now.
Verizon to Acquire AOL
Deal Creates Unique and Scaled Digital Media Platforms for Consumers, Advertisers and Partners
NEW YORK – Taking another significant step in building digital and video platforms to drive future growth, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) today announced the signing of an agreement to purchase AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) for $50 per share -- an estimated total value of approximately $4.4 billion. Verizon's acquisition further drives its LTE wireless video and OTT (over-the-top video) strategy. The agreement will also support and connect to Verizon's IoT (Internet of Things) platforms, creating a growth platform from wireless to IoT for consumers and businesses.
AOL is a leader in the digital content and advertising platforms space, and the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a scaled, mobile-first platform offering directly targeted at what eMarketer estimates is a nearly $600 billion global advertising industry. AOL's key assets include its subscription business; its premium portfolio of global content brands, including The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, MAKERS and AOL.com, as well as its millennial-focused OTT, Emmy-nominated original video content; and its programmatic advertising platforms.
Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said: "Verizon's vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience."
He added, "AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer, and we are excited at the prospect of charting a new course together in the digitally connected world. At Verizon, we've been strategically investing in emerging technology, including Verizon Digital Media Services and OTT, that taps into the market shift to digital content and advertising. AOL's advertising model aligns with this approach, and the advertising platform provides a key tool for us to develop future revenue streams."
Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman and CEO, will continue to lead AOL operations after closing.
Armstrong said, "Verizon is a leader in mobile and OTT connected platforms, and the combination of Verizon and AOL creates a unique and scaled mobile and OTT media platform for creators, consumers and advertisers. The visions of Verizon and AOL are shared; the companies have existing successful partnerships, and we are excited to work with the team at Verizon to create the next generation of media through mobile and video."
The transaction will take the form of a tender offer followed by a merger, with AOL becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon upon completion.
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions and is expected to close this summer.
Verizon expects to fund the transaction from cash on hand and commercial paper. The company also continues to expect to return to pre-Vodafone transaction credit ratings in the 2018-2019 timeframe.
Transaction advisers for Verizon were LionTree Advisors; Guggenheim Partners; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. AOL advisers were Allen & Company LLC and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
In this communication we have made forward-looking statements. These statements are based on our estimates and assumptions and are subject to risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include the information concerning our possible or assumed future results of operations. Forward-looking statements also include those preceded or followed by the words "anticipates," "believes," "estimates," "hopes" or similar expressions. For those statements, we claim the protection of the safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The following important factors, along with those discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), could affect future results and could cause those results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements: adverse conditions in the U.S. and international economies; the effects of competition in the markets in which we operate; material changes in technology or technology substitution; disruption of our key suppliers' provisioning of products or services; changes in the regulatory environment in which we operate, including any increase in restrictions on our ability to operate our networks; breaches of network or information technology security, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or acts of war or significant litigation and any resulting financial impact not covered by insurance; our high level of indebtedness; an adverse change in the ratings afforded our debt securities by nationally accredited ratings organizations or adverse conditions in the credit markets affecting the cost, including interest rates, and/or availability of further financing; material adverse changes in labor matters, including labor negotiations, and any resulting financial and/or operational impact; significant increases in benefit plan costs or lower investment returns on plan assets; changes in tax laws or treaties, or in their interpretation; changes in accounting assumptions that regulatory agencies, including the SEC, may require or that result from changes in the accounting rules or their application, which could result in an impact on earnings; and the inability to implement our business strategies.
Additional Information and Where to Find It
The tender offer for the outstanding shares of AOL Inc. ("AOL") has not yet commenced. This communication is for informational purposes only and is neither an offer to purchase nor a solicitation of an offer to sell shares of AOL, nor is it a substitute for the tender offer materials that Verizon Communications Inc. ("Verizon") and its acquisition subsidiary will file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") upon commencement of the tender offer. At the time the tender offer is commenced, Verizon and its acquisition subsidiary will file tender offer materials on Schedule TO, and AOL will file a Solicitation/Recommendation Statement on Schedule 14D-9 with the SEC with respect to the tender offer. The tender offer materials (including an Offer to Purchase, a related Letter of Transmittal and certain other tender offer documents) and the Solicitation/Recommendation Statement will contain important information. Holders of shares of AOL are urged to read these documents when they become available because they will contain important information that holders of AOL securities should consider before making any decision regarding tendering their securities. The Offer to Purchase, the related Letter of Transmittal and certain other tender offer documents, as well as the Solicitation/Recommendation Statement, will be made available to all holders of shares of AOL at no expense to them. The tender offer materials and the Solicitation/Recommendation Statement will be made available for free at the SEC's website at www.sec.gov. Additional copies may be obtained for free at Verizon's website at www.verizon.com/about/investors or by contacting Verizon Investor Relations, Verizon Communications Inc., One Verizon Way, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.