Yelp

(Yelp)

Report: Consumer review website operator Yelp exploring sale

Technology Reuters

Yelp Inc, the operator of consumer review website Yelp.com, is exploring a sale that could fetch more than $3.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

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Yelp's shares rose as much as 16 percent on Thursday.

The San Francisco-based company is working with investment bankers and it has been in touch with potential buyers in recent weeks, the Journal reported. (http://on.wsj.com/1F1gMnU)

Yelp, which went public in 2012, had a market value of about $2.86 billion as of Wednesday, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The company, whose subscriber growth has been slowing in an increasingly competitive U.S. market, has been trying to expand in other markets and diversify into restaurant bookings, event management and payments.

A deal isn't imminent, the Journal cited one of the people as saying, and it's possible Yelp will decide against a sale.

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Yelp declined to comment.

Suitors could include Google Inc, Yahoo Inc and even Microsoft Corp, FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi told Reuters.

This is not the first time rumors of Yelp being a takeover target have surfaced.

Speculations of Google, Yahoo and Priceline being possible suitors have done the rounds.

CNBC's Jim Cramer said in 2013 that Apple Inc should buy Yelp at $75 per share. (http://cnb.cx/1AI5Sy5)

Yelp's shares were up 15.3 percent at $44.11 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. 

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar, Sai Sachin R and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Bill Rigby in Seattle; Editing by Kirti Pandey)