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Rediff’s Acquisition Prospects

Posted on Monday, Jul 16th 2007

Rediff (Nasdaq: REDF) is reported to be in acquisition discussions with Google and Yahoo.

The company’s stock moved up to an all-time high of $27.50 per share on July 12 from $17.94 on July 5. The trading volume increased to more than a million shares from an average of 50,000 share a day, and has since settled in the 700,000 range.

No one can blame Rediff for not putting a finger in nearly every conceivable online pie related to India. The one that was missing thus far has been fulfilled a few days back when it launched ‘iShare’, a social content sharing platform where one can share videos, music and images.

To analyze Rediff in terms of all that it offers is a tough call. A look at its website reveals that it has content search facility categorized for such unlikely items as ringtones, classified ads, Indian stocks, comparing mobile phones, and so on.

But Rediff has more diverse offerings. If Rediff Mail, a free and paid email service, is one of the oldest, there also are those like online shopping, matrimonial service (Rediff Matchmaker), blogging (Rediff iLand), community-driven knowledge sharing service (Rediff Q&A), and domain/web-hosting service among others.

There are so many services that Rediff offers, but does it dominate any of these? The answer is perhaps an unambiguous ‘No’ though no clear figures are available to say that for sure.

It’s tempting to say Rediff is a content portal, or vortal (vertical portal) if you will. But the myriad products it has do not mesh into a seamless content platform. Many of these products are rather results of knee-jerk reactions to new online inventions than parts of a well-planned strategy to grow.

Rediff’s revenues for Q4/06-07 (ending march 31, 2007) totaled US$ 8.48 million, an increase of 66% over similar figures a year back. Of this, its India Online revenues made up US$ 6.30 million, which is an increase of 76% over last year’s. The balance of US$ 2.18 million came from US Publishing revenues. The latter increased by 42% over the same quarter in the last financial year.

Its annual revenues ending March 31, 2007 have been US$ 28.68 million as against 18.70 million in the previous year, an impressive jump of about 53%. After a prolonged lackluster trading at sub-20 level, the company’s ADR recorded a 52-wk high at 27.50 in response to iShare launch and the takeover speculations, on a market cap around $740 Million.

In its SEC filings, Rediff does mention that online advertising continues to drive growth for the company. The main categories that contribute to the company’s advertising revenues are employment, matrimonial, finance, travel and IT products.

Incidentally, Rediff also owns India Abroad, the oldest and largest Indian weekly newspaper targeted towards the Indian Diaspora abroad.

Rediff’s strength is its 53.6 million registered users (as of March 31, 2007), which is an increase of 25% over previous years’. The point that remains is that Rediff lacks a dominating niche, and there is no firm indication that this may be in the works.

It’s somewhat evident that Rediff lacks a clear growth strategy. And though the going has been not all that bad so far, there is no guarantee that the story will continue to be the same in times to come. If strong niche players usurp one or more of its perceived dominance, Rediff will be in for some serious trouble. Especially in the online classifieds area, there have been a lot of investment in verticals portals by venture firms (Online Travel, Matrimonials, Jobs, etc.).

Perhaps, this is the backdrop for its acquisition discussions.

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Rediff’s rival SIFY(on portals) entered into an alliance with Microsoft, just last week. The is related to controlling the OS/Productivity software being used in SIFY-IWays.

Venkatesh Monday, July 16, 2007 at 2:19 PM PT

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Google and Yahoo eyeing on Rediff ?? Monday, July 16, 2007 at 9:49 PM PT

I believe that time has come for consolidation in India Portal arena. Yahoo, MSN, Google (If we can classify it as a portal), AOL and not to be forgotten – India’s own Indiatimes – all are trying to get the advantage. somehow I feel that Yahoo and Indiatimes are at strategically placed better. Indiatimes is using all its resources – print, online and radio to promote its cause and has become quite popular.

Its a “battle” that may be worth watching.

Ajay Monday, July 16, 2007 at 10:53 PM PT

That begs the question- what is that unique differentiator that Rediff has to stand out in the crowd?
-Is it its diverse service portfolio? -appears to be doing too many things.
-Is it its India appeal? – Not sure
-Spam ridden email service?- There are too many choices , anyways.
-Is it its great content? – very average I would say
-Is it its tired old looks – well..

I am not surprised it is up for sale.

Rajesh Kumar Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 8:54 AM PT