Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo: Time to Negotiate With Microsoft?

So, no surprise, according to multiple sources I talked to yesterday, the roadshow by top Yahoo execs–CEO and Co-Founder Jerry Yang, President Sue Decker and CFO Blake Jorgensen–to tout the new growth plan the company unveiled last week was not such a hit with shareholders.

While the group met with polite audiences, most investors I talked to were unenthusiastic about the plan and dubious that Yahoo’s blue-sky hopes would come through. “I think we wanted to give Jerry a hearing, but mostly to save face,” said one investor, in a sentiment that was typical.

What Yahoo (YHOO) was selling, of course, has been a plea for time from shareholders and a way to signal Microsoft (MSFT)–which made an unsolicited bid for the company in the beginning of February–that a price rise was needed to complete the deal. In addition, so far, no alternative offers have panned out.

chartyahoo

Thus, last week, Yahoo released information about its future prognosis, saying there would be no surprises for 2008 off guidance, strong gains in revenue and cash flow for 2009 and 2010 and a resulting share price closer to $40, $9 above the original $31 a share–the cash-and-stock offer is actually now worth about $29.50–offered by Microsoft. (See chart.)

Interesting, Microsoft has been unusually silent on Yahoo’s growth predictions, which to me signals: Unimpressed, not inclined to raise its price and increasingly bored waiting for the inevitable call to negotiate.

90210

But that call, I think, will now have to happen–even though I would bet my precious “Beverly Hills 90210″ pilot episode DVD (seen here!) that Microsoft’s Morgan Stanley (MS) bankers and Yahoo’s Goldman Sachs (GS) bankers have been secretly communicating for a while now.

(Morgan to Goldman: “Ignore what the left hand is doing–it will stop gesticulating wildly soon and we can begin bargaining and collect our big fat fees!”)

So do others: “I now give it 14 days,” said one person who has experience in merger back-and-forth Kabuki dances. “There are no more moves to delay this, although you have to give Yahoo credit for its efforts.”

Extra credit even! But is that all there is?

Some at Yahoo do not agree. One person close to the company noted that Yahoo’s situation is like that of financial software maker Intuit (INTU), which was not bought by the software giant in 1994.

“Remember what happened to their deal with Microsoft?” said the person.

Actually, I do. After a lot of behind-the-scenes pressure from Microsoft, Intuit Founder and CEO Scott Cook struck a deal with Microsoft’s Bill Gates in which the company got a 40% premium, or $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock.

That deal was only scuttled, when the Justice Department stepped in and threatened to file suit to stop the union.

Thus, Yahoo’s only hope is the Justice Department, defanged under the Bush administration and with the existence of a major online rival like Google (GOOG) to point to as competition?

It could happen, I guess. But, I would have to say: Count me dubious.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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