LinkedIn is Raising $1Bn; Could Acquisition Be In Store?

LinkedIn-Logo (2)LinkedIn, which already has $873 million of cash and short-term investments sloshing around, now is seeking to raise an extra $1 billion by selling freshly issued stock. What’s behind the fund-raising binge? Lots of possibilities — with acquisitions being the most interesting idea.

In a news release, LinkedIn ticked off all the standard, vague reasons that companies cite for raising more money. The Mountain View, Calif.-based social network for professionals says it wants to increase its financial flexibility and “further strengthen its balance sheet.” It adds that it might use the money for working capital, expanding its already hefty product development and field-sales teams, expanding abroad, general administrative matters, or
capital expenditures.

LinkedIn also says it may use some of the money for “potential strategic acquisitions of, or investments in, complementary businesses, technologies or other assets.” So far in its 10-year history, LinkedIn has done occasional small acquisitions, but nothing all that big. It paid $119 million for SlideShare last year, and $90 million for Pulse (a mobile news feed app-maker) earlier this year. Doubtless there are lots more venture-funded startups that wouldn’t mind negotiating a sale that would give them ready cash — and access to LinkedIn’s 238 million members.

If sellers were comfortable taking LinkedIn stock themselves, there wouldn’t be any need to raise cash to fund deals. But with LinkedIn stock up 114% this year, some potential sellers may prefer the certainty of cash for at least part of the transaction price. Then they won’t be totally at the mercy of the next zig or zag in LinkedIn’s share price, especially if terms of the transaction obligate them to hold the stock for some number of months.

LinkedIn’s new financing plans were announced shortly after the close of regular stock exchange trading, but in after-hours action, LinkedIn shares slipped 1.9%, to about $242.

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