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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A slew of digital media acquisitions over the past few weeks shows how unreliable private valuations can be.

Why it matters: The only way for anyone to really know how much any private company is worth is if it sells in an all-cash deal. When privately-held companies sell via all-stock transactions or via a mix of cash and stock, dealmakers can essentially make up the value of the assets they are looking to purchase.

Expand chart
Data: Axios Research via media and public reports; Table: Axios Visuals

Driving the news: Group Nine Media said Monday that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire POPSUGAR Inc., a lifestyle digital media company that caters to millennial women, in an all-stock transaction.

  • The acquisition values POPSUGAR at $300 million and the combined company at $1 billion, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Journal had previously reported that Group Nine's latest valuation before the acquisition was north of $600 million.
  • Even if we assume that these figures are correct, we don't know what lies behind them.

The big picture: The Group Nine/POPSUGAR deal was the third major media deal that happened in the last month, signaling that consolidation is afoot.

Between the lines: Digital media execs and investors have privately told Axios that the combined valuation of Vice Media and Refinery29 should be much lower than the total $4 billion figure that has been reported.

  • Vice investor Disney has already written written down its entire $400 million investment in the company, signaling that it doesn't expect to see any return for its money.

Be smart: Private company valuations are set by a small number of investors, not markets. There's no guarantee an acquirer will agree with those figures, and "headline" valuations might mask all sort of structural mechanisms that protect investors at the expense of stock-holding employees.

Bottom line: Media companies are merging in an effort to combine resources and reach bigger audiences in a bid to become profitable, or at least get a better shot at competing with the likes of Google and Facebook for ad revenue. But until companies go public or sell for a public cash figure, there's no way of knowing just how much their big bets are really worth.

Worth a read: Via CNBC's Alex Sherman: "Vice’s $400 million deal for Refinery29 illustrates the pointlessness of private valuations."

Go deeper

Advocates say Biden has let Haitian migrants down

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Christian Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Continued turmoil in Haiti is causing a growing number of Haitians to try to make it to American shores — and some advocates say the Biden administration isn't supporting this community in its time of crisis.

The big picture: Haitian-American activists in South Florida told Axios Today they feel like President Biden has gone back on campaign promises he made to the community to stand up for them.

46 mins ago - Health

Supply isn't our only COVID treatment problem

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Antiviral COVID treatments are hailed as a pandemic game-changer, but they're currently in very short supply — and that's only one of several barriers to access for high-risk patients.

The big picture: Even when supply ramps up, it will still be tricky to connect some of the most vulnerable patients to the pills without changes to the process.

Four-day workweeks get rave reviews, but they're not catching on

Expand chart
Data: Indeed.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

The four-day work week is nowhere close to becoming the norm, despite a flurry of corporate announcements, media coverage and intense interest from worker bees worldwide.

Why it matters: With the pandemic throwing work-family dynamics into chaos and a labor market favoring workers, there's demand for this.