Consumer review website operator Yelp exploring sale: WSJ

BENGALURU (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.

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.

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

The company, whose subscriber growth has been slowing in an increasingly competitive US 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.

Yelp could not be immediately reached for 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 rumours of Yelp being a takeover target have surfaced. Speculations of Google, Yahoo and Priceline being possible suitors have done the rounds.