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Ask Jeeves bought for $1.9B
IAC/InterActive to use stock to buy search engine for deal valued providing 16 percent premium.
March 21, 2005: 10:54 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - IAC/InterActiveCorp. agreed Monday to buy search engine firm Ask Jeeves in a stock deal valued at $1.85 billion.

IAC (Research) will issue 1.2668 shares of its stock for each share of Ask Jeeves (Research). That would represent a premium of about 16 percent for Ask Jeeves shareholders, based on Friday's closing prices.

Shares of Ask Jeeves gained $3.41, or 14 percent, to $27.65 in pre-market trading on Inet following Monday's announcement, while shares of IAC lost 60 cents, or about 2.5 percent, to $21.69.

Through its previously authorized share repurchase programs, IAC intends to buy back at least 60 percent of the roughly 75 million shares it will issue for this acquisition, in order to limit the dilution the deal will cause for its current shareholders. It said that, assuming a 60 percent repurchase rate, it expects the deal will add to earnings per share this year.

Ask Jeeves is best known for allowing users to ask a specific question rather than simply listing words or phrases as they do with a traditional Internet search engine.

While search engines are free to users, they have become more profitable as advertisers pay to have their companies listed among a search's results. Ask Jeeves had 2004 revenue of $261.3 million and earnings per share excluding special items of $1.08. It said last month that it expected 2005 revenue of $380 to $395 million and EPS excluding items of $1.30 to $1.45.

IAC's business include Ticketmaster, home shopping service HSN and travel site Expedia. Ask Jeeves is the world's No. 9 Web company, according to the companies' statement.

"Joining IAC will enable us to play on a much larger field," said a statement from Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz. "Ask Jeeves will now be in an even stronger position to aggressively grow market share."

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