IAC: After The Spins, What Will It Do With The Cash?

This story was written by Joseph Weisenthal.
New IAC (NSDQ: IACI) stands to get about $1.5 billion in cash once the big breakup plan is complete. It'll be a bit less, since LendingTree will be sent on its way with a little extra spending money. So the question is: What's New IAC's growth plan and how will it use the cash. Lehman's Doug Anmuth offers his assessment in a report (PDF, not online), outlining three ways the company plans to grow. The first is growing search share at Ask.com, which will be tough, but if it can gain any ground at all, it will provide a lift since the business is so small. The next part is improving yield, which is what the company's arrangement with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is all about. Lastly is acquisitions. But don't expect anything big or game-changing from IAC on this front. Instead, expect a number of "tuck-in" deals, and possibly a play to build out a broader original owned & operated content network, which could be achieved through acquisitions. Given IAC's recent history of not competing for big deals, this sounds likely. Plus, there's the ever-present dearth of reasonably priced interactive assets at the high level.

Overall, Anmuth is an IAC bull, arguing that the company has been hurt too much by recessionary fears, aversion to smaller companies and unwarranted fears that it will blow its cash on an unwise deal. Using a some-of-the-parts analysis, Anmuth believes IAC is worth $25 per share, compared to its current level of just over $17.

The endorsement of the company should come as welcome news to CEO Barry Diller, who's overall outlook for things is glum. Earlier this week, Diller told CNBC that while he's confident in his own business prospects, the economy looks pretty bad from his perch: "We are probably going to go into conditions that we have not seen in a very long time, probably towards the end of the year." He added that he'll be thrilled once the spinoffs are completenot surprising, given how exposed units like HSN and LendingTree are to the worst of the economy.

By Joseph Weisenthal