Facebook Torpedoes Zynga: Takeover Possible?

| About: Facebook (FB)
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A wise man once said, "In my book, you either get it right, or you get eliminated." Ever since its IPO (and before then) Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) has been heavily dependent on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) as its primary cash cow—Farmville, Poker, Fishville the list goes on and on. I myself have partaken in amusing myself with some of these games, even spending a few coins on them as well. Even though I did, I don't believe it is healthy for any company to base their future on just one client.

Just recently, Facebook decided to change the way we view the games/apps in their application. No longer do I see Farmville or any of the others anywhere remotely close to my homepage. In fact as I write this article, I took a quick peek at my page—there are a few recent apps and games I have used, but no longer do I see Farmville and Fishville. In fact, I need to take three steps just to see the app. That is a far cry from me clicking on it within 5 seconds or less of logging in to tend to my crops!

Many of you knew about most of this already. Most analysts see it as Facebook just changing their business, showing the newer games first, and the old ones later. The result has been catastrophic for Zynga. Because they are so heavily reliant on their revenue from Facebook (29% of last quarter's revenue was from Farmville alone), they are now looking at a loss of 40% of the company's value down to $2.2 billion, and a drop in share price nearly 65% YTD. Talk about a shot across the bow...

Is this just a business model change for Facebook or did they torpedo their partner to get the price to drop? Zynga does look quite a bit more attractive at $3 than the close to $10 price it was beginning of this year. Let's look at reasons why a takeover would work for Facebook.

Price: As mentioned earlier, Zynga's price is 65% (give or take) off their price at the start of this year. Facebook would not have the cash to purchase the stock 6 months ago (they are sitting on about $4B) when the price was nearly 3X the amount, but with 700M shares or so outstanding, they could purchase 51% they need to gain control of the company (or more if they wanted to) for right around a cool billion. Also Zynga has $1.6B in cash so acquiring the entire company could pay for itself nearly instantaneously!

Show me the Farm First (again): Once in control of the company, they could then decide to vault all of the Zynga products to the front of the line. Forget the old theory, they could decide internally that the old way was suddenly the best for them. They would happily admit their mistake, and then business as usual. Zynga does have 7 of the top 10 games on Facebook, but the popularity just isn't what it used to be. For example, Farmville had 80 million users this past March, and only 20 million this month!

Shock and Awe: Let's be frank, Facebook needs something to reaffirm the public perception about the company. As bad as Zynga has been sinking, Facebook is not far behind. Gone (for now) is the $35-$40 share price we saw at their IPO a few months ago. The share price has dropped about $7 in the last month. And now analysts are now questioning the model. Is there room for more growth? How come their first report after the IPO was not better (as it should ALWAYS be)? They need something to renew interest in the stock.

Whether or not Facebook deliberately drilled a torpedo into Zynga's future is of course up for debate, and something we will probably never know. I have no inside knowledge of such a thing actually occurring. Is it possible? Of course. Probable? Up for debate.

But the fact remains that now rather than later Facebook should take a serious look at acquiring its partner and then adapt their pages to be Zynga-friendly. Remember, this is a company that generated over $1.1B last year, and had revenues of $330M this past quarter (up 19% YOY). The question is can Facebook make that even profitable by having it under their wing? I cannot see how they cannot, if they rescue the ship before it is completely sunk.

Disclosure: I am long DELL, SIRI, HMY.

Additional disclosure: I have recently opened a position in NFLX.