How big is WhatsApp?

Facebook’s $19 billion (R210 billion) WhatsApp buy has made history as the largest acquisition made by an Internet company – and makes the global chat app worth more than South Africa’s largest mobile operator, Vodacom.

At R210 billion, the WhatsApp deal is worth more than the total market capitalisation of Vodacom – which is currently at around R177 billion.

The messaging app is also worth more than half of MTN’s market capitalisation (R376 billion) and just under half of the value of SA’s biggest media and Internet company, Naspers (R530 billion).

WhatsApp currently has 450 million monthly users, with 310 million active daily users. According to Facebook, its messaging volume is approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume; and the app is adding more than 1 million new registered users per day.

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a press release announcing the acquisition.

Vodacom meanwhile, has 56.0 million group customers, while MTN reported a subscriber base of 203.8 million across 21 territories in a quarterly update for the nine-month period ended September 2013.

Whatsapp vs SA companies
Whatsapp vs SA companies

Biggest Internet company acquisition

While the acquisition of WhatsApp is a far stretch from the biggest buy in the tech sector – a crown currently held by Vodafone Group’s massive $185.1 billion bid for Mennesmann in 2000 – it has far surpassed Google as the top Internet company willing to fork over big bucks for business.

In 2012, Google spent $12.5 billion on mobile phone maker, Motorola, and a plethora of patents – a business that was passed along to Lenovo early in 2014, when the Internet giant sold the handset maker (but not its patents) for a ‘cool’ $2.9 billion.

WhatsApp’s $19 billion price tag – made up of $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in Facebook stock and a further $3 billion in reserved stock – puts the message app at the top of the list of most expensive applications and instant messaging tools.

Previously, Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion held that crown.

This is not Facebook’s first jarring step into acquisitions – the world’s largest social network made waves in 2012 by purchasing photo-filter hipster-friendly social network, Instagram, for $1 billion.

Tech’s largest acquisitions

Company Acquired Amount Year
Vodafone Mannesmann $185.1 billion 2000
Verizon Verizon Wireless $130 billion 2013
Bell Atlantic GTE $71.1 billion 1998
Comcast AT&T Broadband $76.1 billion 2001
AT&T BellSouth $83.1 billion 2006
Vodafone Airtouch $57.4 billion 2000
Facebook WhatsApp $19 billion 2014
Google Motorola $12.5 billion 2012
Hewlett -Packard Autonomy $10.2 billion 2011
Microsoft Skype $8.5 billion 2011
Oracle Sun Microsystems $7.4 billion 2009
Microsoft Nokia $7.2 billion 2013
Western Digital Hitachi $4.8 billion 2011
Panasonic Sanyo $4.6 billion 2009
Google Nest $3.2 billion 2014
Google DoubleClick $3.1 billion 2008
Lenovo Motorola $2.9 billion 2014
Cisco Sourcefire $2.7 billion 2013
eBay Skype $2.5 billion 2005
Lenovo IBM server unit $2.3 billion 2014
Oracle Acme Packet $2.1 billion 2013
Google YouTube $1.65 billion 2006
eBay PayPal $1.5 billion 2002
Yahoo Tumblr $1.1 billion 2013
Facebook Instagram $1.0 billion 2012
Google AdMob $750 million 2009
Google ITA Software $676 million 2010
Google DeepMind Technologies $650 million 2014

Closer to home, Vodacom is also in the process of spending some big money on local acquisitions, with the operator in talks to by Neotel for a reported figure of R10 billion.

Discussions between the two parties are said to be close to conclusion, according to an analyst, who says that the next step would be a trip to the Competition Commission and regulatory.

More on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $16 billion

Is WhatsApp the biggest IM in SA?

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How big is WhatsApp?