Will Yahoo! Finally Sell its Asian Assets to Alibaba?
That's the question everyone is asking. But will we ever get an answer?
The two entities are eager to gain at least a portion of Yahoo!'s assets, with Alibaba looking to take back Yahoo!'s stake in the firm, and Softbank seeking control of Yahoo!'s Japanese affiliate. This news comes from Dealbook's sources, who were reportedly briefed on the matter.
Alibaba and Softbank have been slowly gaining steam in their supposed – though not entirely confirmed – interest in Yahoo!'s assets. Less than three weeks ago, there were reports that the two buyers had teamed up to acquire the entire company.
To date, Silver Lake (a private equity firm) has provided Yahoo! with its largest buyout offer at $16.60 per share. At that time, Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) and KKR (NYSE: KKR) were among the companies that were said to be interested in acquiring all or a portion of the company. If Yahoo! accepts the Alibaba/Softbank offer, Dealbook's sources said that it “may” reject separate investment proposals from the aforementioned Silver Lake, as well as TPG Capital.
The Alibaba/Softbank deal is reportedly valued at $14 per Yahoo! share, but with the stock spiking just before the market close (which you could have heard about instantly with Benzinga Pro's realtime newsfeed), and with Yahoo! shares rising further in after hours trading, it's hard to believe that the company would accept such a low offer. But with a total value of $17 billion (Yahoo!'s stake in Alibaba could be worth as much as $12 billion, while Yahoo! Japan could be worth $5 billion), Yahoo! board members may not be able to resist.
Assuming the deal goes through, Dealbook said that Yahoo! is expected to keep a 15% stake in Alibaba. Dealbook reported that this could be executed as either a “standalone deal or alongside a minority investment in Yahoo by Silver Lake or TPG.”
Aside from unconfirmed buyout offers, Yahoo! hasn't received much positive attention this year. The media giant did, however, announce a moderately surprising partnership with ABC News, one of Disney's (NYSE: DIS) many subsidiaries. In a company release, the two corporations claimed that the partnership would “enhance and transform the delivery of news and information across the digital landscape.”
Buyout or not, Yahoo! isn't in the best position right now. Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, recently said that Tim Morse – the interim CEO that replaced Carol Bartz – should have been fired along with her.
“Both Carol and Tim [Morse] should have been fired together as they both have damaged YHOO's business and repairing it will be extremely difficult,” Chowdhry said in September. “We don't have high opinions on the CFO...he just kept cutting costs which is the…easiest thing to do. Both the CEO and CFO are completely clueless of the velocity of innovation that is needed to succeed in the Internet space.”
Chowdhry added that he did not think Yahoo! would be able to attract top talent, “And probably YHOO will need to settle with the leftover talent that is available in the market today.”
Unfortunately, “leftover talent” may be better than what the company currently employs. Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager and the founder of Third Point LLC, recently referred to Yahoo!'s Chairman, Roy Bostock, as a “Destroyer of Value.”
“Mr. Bostock's failure on the call to acknowledge his pivotal role in, and accept responsibility for, the decline of Yahoo! makes clear that he does not intend to voluntarily follow his recently terminated hand-picked executive, Ms. Bartz, out the door,” Loeb wrote in a letter to Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang. “It is our strongly held belief that not only has Mr. Bostock been a destroyer of value, but also so long as he serves as Chairman of the Board, the Company will not be able to attract the talent it needs and deserves, particularly at the CEO level.”
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Aside from Mr. Loeb, few Yahoo! investors have openly spoken about what they'd like to see from the company. But we do know that:
- Whenever Yahoo! inches closer to a sale, the stock shoots up (a no-brainer reaction to corporations that are expected to be bought out).
- Earlier this year, Yahoo! was one of the leading companies rumored to be interested in acquiring Hulu. Now that Yahoo! is too busy to think about that, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) are free to battle Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) for control of the growing video property.
On the downside, the Chinese-owned Alibaba could use Yahoo! to:
- Build a new, international threat to Google's numerous enterprises.
- Create new competition for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) rising search engine, Bing.
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