Only a year and a half after it built Oath from the assets of the communications giants Yahoo and AOL, Verizon now says they’re virtually worthless.
In a filing Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, Verizon Communications Inc. said it was taking a $4.6 billion charge on the goodwill balance of Oath, the division it created in June 2017 after it spent billions of dollars to buy Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc.
“Goodwill” is calculated by subtracting the current fair market value of the assets and liabilities of an acquired company from the price that was paid to buy the company.
Verizon said in the filing Tuesday that it last assessed the Oath brand’s goodwill at $4.8 billion. Writing off $4.6 billion of that means Verizon now values Oath — including AOL and Yahoo subsidiaries like Yahoo.com, AOL.com, the Huffington Post, MSN and TechCrunch — at just $200 million on paper.
That doesn’t mean Oath is actually worth only $200 million in cash — Oath said it still has about $5 billion of real assets remaining. On the other hand, Verizon calculated that, after taxes, the write-down would knock $4.5 billion in real money off the company’s income in the fourth quarter, which ends Dec. 31.
Oath was supposed to be Verizon’s big push into web-driven advertising, a bid to compete with behemoths like Google LLC and Facebook Inc. in the U.S. online ad market, which the Internet Advertising Bureau projects could top $100 billion this year.
But rather than eat into Google’s and Facebook’s market shares, Oath’s ad revenue fell by 7 percent in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, to just $1.8 billion.