Potential IPO hounds who haven’t yet been scared off by Google’s projected triple-digit share price, or its total valuation in the mid-$30 billion range, have yet another reason to fret. Yesterday, one of Google’s second-class rivals, Lycos, was sold by its parent, Terra Networks (Nasdaq: TRLY), to Korea’s Daum Communication for the bargain price of $105 million.
For context, recall that when Terra Networks first offered to buy out Lycos in 2000, it bid $12.5 billion. Fast-forward just four years, and the company has lost about 99% of its value. (Why, even your average Kia doesn’t depreciate that fast!)
There is one caveat to the depreciation story, but it’s a small one. Before the sale, Terra stripped out $435 million worth of Lycos’ European and U.S. Spanish-language assets, which it will hold onto at the behest of Terra’s parent company, Telefonica SA (NYSE: TEF). So call the depreciation 99%, or 95% if you prefer — either way, it’s a pretty big write-off.
Now, as anyone who has used Lycos’ email system can attest, the company is a truly substandard operation. I have an email account with the company myself, which I continue to use despite the site often being down inexplicably. The site’s unpopularity causes spammers, who swarm to Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Hotmail users, to treat Lycos like the cyber equivalent of desert wasteland — uneconomical even to send junk mail to. Hence, Lycos.com has become a de facto spam-free zone.