Earnings: CNET CEO: Would Go Back On U.S. Purchase Prowl ‘If Valuations Correct’

CNET (NSDQ: CNET) CEO Neil Ashe told analysts during the Q407 earnings call today that he wants to make U.S. acquisitions — most of CNET’s spending has been in China and Europe of late — but has been held back by the high costs.

Ashe: “We have a history of being an industry consolidator and we are desirous of being an industry consolidator going forward and many of the changes we’re making in the organization now are so that we can realize scale over the next several years. … We found in the U.S, over the course of the last 12-18 months, a disconnect between private market expectations and public market values, which has made the properties we’d like to acquire very expensive. So far, that hasn’t changed but we expect it to if economic trends continue so, if that happens, we will again attempt to go on the acquisition prowl in the U.S.

But Ashe says they don’t plan a return to the small-acquisition strategy. “In addition to the obvious kind of bolt-on opportunities to our existing properties, we’d further look for larger businesses that could change the make up of the company … as we’ve said before, we would like to get away from so many small acquisitions and focus on larger opportunities. … If the valuations correct, as we hope they will, we will absolutely look for acquisition opportunities and we will look to make them be significantly additive.”

Developing sites: BNET and Chow are CNET’s bets on developing sites. Both will operate at a slight loss this year as they continue to invest. “Product innovation” is promised for the business network. Chow is a “smaller opportunity” but the company is bullish on both.

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) contract: No specifics on the renewed search contract but Google was described as having “more negotiating leverage” in the deal given its status as the largest player.

At the same time as releasing earnings, CNET announced that CFO George Mazzotta was leaving, to be replaced by M&A head Zander Lurie, and that it had acquired Chinese auto site Cheshi.

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