March 25, 2019 — Although sources confirmed to us two weeks ago an acquisition of Cars.com was close, we’re still waiting. But signs are a deal should be announced in the next several days.
According to a press release this morning, the process is ongoing and involves “multiple parties.” The biggest indication, though, is that Cars.com also announced it has extended the deadline for board nominations to 5 pm ET April 22, 2019. The extension follows recent discussions with Starboard Value, the activist investment involved with Cars.com. The next shareholders’ meeting has yet to be scheduled (was in May in 2018).
If a deal wasn’t close, Starboard likely wouldn’t have signed off on an extension of the board nominations. Starboard’s history shows a willingness to fight for control of companies’ boards and that likely will happen with Cars.com if a deal isn’t consummated in the next few weeks.
Cars.com announced in January it had begun exploring strategic alternatives, and since then, there have been few leaks. CDK Global was reported to be preparing a bid, but all of our sources agreed with our analysis that such a deal made little sense.
Late last week, StreetInsider reported Carvana had emerged as a late bidder. This one makes even less sense than the CDK rumor. Carvana is a used car dealer that uses an online platform to sell and distribute its vehicles. It uses other platforms such as Cars.com, Autotrader, and CarGurus to list its inventory.
If Carvana were to acquire Cars.com, every other dealer listing inventory on Cars.com likely would pull their inventory immediately due to competitive issues. And it’s not likely Carvana is planning on switching its business model.
Nevertheless, there are numerous entities in which an acquisition of Cars.com would make strategic sense. We outlined several possible buyers two weeks ago and why or why not they should acquire Cars.com (for premium subscribers only).