Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo’s China Settlement Fails to Stem Its Stock Decline

You would think the settlement of a major dispute would goose the stock of a company, but Yahoo’s deal with its Chinese partner Alibaba Group on Friday did exactly the opposite.

Despite the clearing of an obvious overhang to its shares, the stock of the Silicon Valley Internet giant dropped almost three percent Friday to close at $13.10. While the ongoing federal budget wrangling was partly to blame, it was only a very small part with an overall market decline of under one percent.

A tepid reaction to the deal — in which Yahoo, Alibaba and Japan’s SoftBank came to terms over the spinoff of Alibaba’s Alipay payments unit after much wrangling over the move — came quickly from Wall Street analysts.

A report titled “Yahoo Inc: Alipay Agreement: Better than Nothing, But Not That Great,” by J.P. Morgan’s Doug Anmuth, was typical. Pointing to no clarity on an IPO of the Chinese assets of Alibaba and that “prior to the divestiture, Alibaba Group owned 100% of Alipay and all of its income, which is now reduced to 37.5% ownership of Alipay and 49.9% share of the pre-tax income,” he noted that Wall Street “has recently assigned no value to Yahoo!’s share of the asset.”

Well, less than zero, if the stock decline is taken into account, which means Yahoo’s market cap is now just over $17 billion.

According to sources close to the situation, especially since Yahoo’s Asian assets make up more than $9 billion of that valuation, private equity investors and others are pulling out their spreadsheets once again about a possible takeover or privatizing of Yahoo.

Several months ago, for example, former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin had been contemplating a friendly bid with partners such as Providence Equity Partners and others. While there have been rumors recently that he has reengaged in that effort, that is unclear.

Sources also note that Yahoo’s top execs, especially CEO Carol Bartz, and also members of its board, are perplexed that the settlement in China — a positive development — had the opposite effect on the stock.

It’s part of a continuing decline. Yahoo shares are down almost 26 percent in the past three months. Most Web stocks — such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft — are strongly up in that period. The only other obvious laggard is AOL, which is down almost 16 percent in the past three months.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik