Is The Net A Bargain At Any Price?

So far, premiums for cyber-companies aren't scaring off bidders

It was a veritable feeding frenzy. No fewer than seven big-name suitors had come calling before Excite Inc. agreed on Jan. 19 to be swallowed up by At Home Corp. for a staggering $7.5 billion or $120 a share--a 78% premium over its share price the previous trading day. The shoppers included giants Sony, Time Warner, Disney, NBC, and News Corp.--all of which hoped to use the Internet-portal company to give them a firmer footing in cyberspace. Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. were in the hunt, too. Excite CEO George Bell says offers were still coming in as he was hammering out his pact with At Home. "I was getting an offer from one company over the weekend that went up every day," says Bell. "It was very competitive."

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