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Did Google Just Kill OpenTable?

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News just hit that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) just bought Zagat, the restaurant ratings company for an undisclosed amount.

This is being seen as a huge negative for OpenTable (NASDAQ: OPEN), which is now down almost 9% on the news. Zagat struck a deal with UrbanSpoon recently, a competitor of OpenTable, the reason for the plunge in OpenTable. UrbanSpoon is owned by IAC Interactive. (NASDAQ: IACI)

On Google's blog, Marissa Mayer, VP, Local, Maps and Location Services wrote, "So, today, I'm thrilled that Google has acquired Zagat. Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.

With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat more than 32 years ago, Zagat has established a trusted and well-loved brand the world over, operating in 13 categories and more than 100 cities. The Zagats have demonstrated their ability to innovate and to do so with tremendous insight. Their surveys may be one of the earliest forms of UGC (user-generated content)—gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the Internet as we know it today even existed. Their iconic pocket-sized guides with paragraphs summarizing and “snippeting” sentiment were “mobile” before “mobile” involved electronics. Today, Zagat provides people with a democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings.

For all of these reasons, I'm incredibly excited to collaborate with Zagat to bring the power of Google search and Google Maps to their products and users, and to bring their innovation, trust and wealth of experience to our users."

It is too early to tell whether Google is trying to kill off OpenTable with this purchase, but there is no question now that Google is moving into content, as suggested by Business Insiders' Henry Blodget. Blodget tweeted "So, post-Zagat, is Google going to continue to deny that it's in the content business?"

With the Zagat purchase, the failed attempt to buy Groupon and subsequent Google Offers, and countless other ventures, Google is not only trying to be your search engine, it is leading you to the company's own brands during the search.

OpenTable may not be killed off yet from this deal, but this does appear to be a large gaping wound. We will see if OpenTable can recover by being acquired by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) or another company, or if it ultimately fades away.

ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:
Traders who believe that OpenTable has more tricks up its sleeve might want to consider the following trades:

  • Today's haircut is obviously a strong reaction to Google entering the space. If traders believe OpenTable is up for sale, then buying long dated calls could potentially be profitable at these levels.

Bearish:
Traders who believe that Google is set out to squash the restaurant space with this deal may consider alternate positions:

  • OpenTable is a high multiple stock. If it does not have some kind of backup plan or an exit strategy, that multiple could be suppressed severely. Traders may want to short the name.

Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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