Boy, there are a lot of acquisition rumors flying around in the Chinese press these days! First there was the rumored Alibaba investment in Weibo (which turned out to be true), then the Baidu acquisition of PPS (also true), recently we’ve been hearing rumors of more acquistions from Alibaba, and now Sina Tech is reporting that Baidu, Qihoo 360, and Tencent are all fighting over the chance to buy out Sogou, Sohu’s search and input method subsidiary.
Sina’s report cites a “knowledgable” source in “investment circles” as saying that Sogou is looking for a buyout, and the three aforementioned internet giants have jumped at the chance. According to the source, Qihoo has offered a $140 million deal that includes cash and stock options, Baidu is offering more in cash (he doesn’t cite a specific sum), and Tencent is mostly in the mix because it wants to be sure Sogou doesn’t go to Qihoo.
Furthermore, the report suggests a difference of opinion high in Sogou’s ranks, with CEO Wang Xiaochuan wanting to take the Qihoo 360 deal while board chair Zhang Chaoyang would prefer to sell to Baidu. But as Zhang has reportedly been taking more personal time of late, Wang has been taking the front seat in the proceedings, and Sina’s source says, “it’s a bit more likely that [Qihoo] 360 will win.”
Of course, this is still just a rumor, even if these kinds of rumors do seem to be coming true a bit lately. We’ve contacted Baidu, Qihoo 360, and Tencent for comment, and will update this story if we hear back, but we don’t expect much as most companies have a general policy of not commenting on rumors. All three of them declined to comment for the Sina Tech story (although apparently none of them denied it outright, which is interesting). Sogou CEO Wang Xiaoquan has called the rumor “unreliable” on his Weibo account.
By some counts, Sogou has the third-largest market share in Chinese search, so acquiring it would be a big boost for Qihoo, which has been struggling to close in on Baidu after its initial grab of more than 10% of the market shortly following its launch. But Sogou’s real value may lie in its widely-used Chinese input method software. The company has already begun to integrate search into its input method in a way that I think is potentially very significant. New applications of that concept could be a nice — and very valuable — bonus that comes along with the boost in market share of buying Sogou.
(via Sina Tech, image deleted)