Google has sold struggling US mobile phone company Motorola Mobility to Chinese computer maker Lenovo for $2.91bn (£1.8bn), in a surprise move.
Google had paid $12.5bn for the company less than two years ago.
Bit of an ouchie there you might think. A near $10 billion loss.
But I’m not so sure myself.
They sold the desktop box unit for $2.35 billion.
And there were also $8.5 billion in accumulated tax losses. While Google owned Motorola Mobility there’s no doubt at all that they could utilise those losses to offset Google’s profits. Consolidation and all that.
So the net cost, assuming they kept the company, was more like $1.5 billion. Which means that if they sell the unit now for $2.9 billion then they make a profit: and they keep the stash of patents which is what we all thought drove the acquisition in the first place.
But that does depend upon whether they can keep those accumulated tax losses while also selling off the unit. And that’s what the question is.
I can imagine that they can: have a structure that owns the Mobility business, the patents and the tax losses, sell off Mobility and keep the other two. But the really interesting questions are:
a) Can they do so?
b) Have they done so and
c) Where would we look it up to find out?