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September 17, 2007

InfoSpace sells Switchboard.com

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:39 PM

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said today it has agreed to sell its online directory business, including Switchboard.com, to Idearc for $225 million in cash.

"The sale of our directory business is part of the board of directors' ongoing review of our company and the opportunities available to enhance value for our shareholders," said Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Voelker. "In addition to unlocking the value of our directory business that was not reflected in the company's market valuation, this transaction is extremely tax efficient, allowing us to capitalize on our net operating losses to significantly maximize the cash proceeds from the sale."

The sale follows numerous restructurings by the company, which has struggled to convince the stock market that its businesses are worth what InfoSpace thinks it is.

The press release said the transaction is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

At closing, InfoSpace said it will return the net proceeds from the sale to shareholders as a special cash distribution. This follows a previous cash dividend to shareholders of about $200 million this summer.

The sale of Switchboard.com raises the question of what InfoSpace's overall strategy is. Left in its stable are online search properties, such as Dogpile, and its mobile infrastructure business, which provides search capabilities and helps carriers build storefronts that sell ringtones and other digital content.

Last week, a report surfaced that InfoSpace's mobile business may be for sale.

Triangle Business Journal reported Sept. 14 that Durham, N.C.-based Motricity is raising as much as $175 million in capital to buy InfoSpace's mobile business before attempting to go public.

The report even went so far as to say that a deal was expected to be announced soon.

If that's the case then InfoSpace will be pared back to its online properties, or perhaps it's selling off the company piecemeal and giving the cash back to shareholders?

In trading today, shareholders definitely congratulated InfoSpace on the sale. Its stock price jumped $4.13.to $17.38 a share.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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