Yahoo! Inc., the U.S. Web portal exploring strategic options after firing Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz last month, isn’t necessarily up for sale, co-founder Jerry Yang said.
“The intent going in is not to put ourselves up for sale,” Yang said at the All Things Digital Asia conference in Hong Kong today. “The intent is to look at all options. There’s plenty of options for the board, and plenty of options for our shareholders to realize value.”
The comments come as Jack Ma, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s biggest e-commerce company, reiterated today he is “interested” in buying Yahoo and is awaiting a decision by the Sunnyvale, California-based company. Yahoo ousted Bartz after the Web portal failed to keep pace with growth at Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.
Since then “multiple parties” have expressed interest in the company, according to a memo last month by Yang. When Yang was CEO in 2008, Yahoo spurned a $47.5 billion offer by Microsoft Corp. Yahoo now has a market value of $20 billion.
The U.S. Internet company has “plenty of options” and its board is “excited” about the ongoing review, Yang said today.
“We’re waiting for Yahoo’s board to tell us what they want to do,” Jack Ma said at the same venue within hours of Yang’s speech. “We’re waiting for answers. If we don’t do it soon, it’s not good for all of us.”
The intentions of Yahoo, rather than financing, present the biggest problem for Alibaba’s plans to acquire the U.S. company, Ma said.
Alibaba is working with private-equity firms on Yahoo, Ma said without elaborating.
Yahoo has drawn an increasingly crowded field of potential bidders for the company. KKR & Co. and Blackstone Group LP are among the private-equity firms considering possible bids for Yahoo, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
In addition, Alibaba Group, whose biggest shareholder is Yahoo, has discussed a plan with Silver Lake and Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies to make a joint bid, people familiar with the matter have said. Another group that is interested in a possible offer includes Providence Equity Partners Inc. and former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin, people said.
Silver Lake is working with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Microsoft to put together a proposal to buy Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal reported on its website today, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify.
Linda Sims, spokeswoman for Canada Pension in Ontario, and Dana Lengkeek, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, didn’t respond to voice messages left after hours seeking comment on the report.
Yahoo’s collaboration with Alibaba is continuing and that remains unaffected by the strategic review, Yahoo Asia Managing Director Rose Tsou said at the same event in Hong Kong.
In 2005, Alibaba Group sold a stake of about 40 percent to Yahoo for $1 billion and ownership of Yahoo’s Chinese unit. The Hangzhou-based company now operates e-commerce businesses including Alibaba.com and Taobao.com, in addition to Yahoo’s local website.
Alibaba is the “main driving force” for action on Yahoo and the company is “ready to buy back” Yahoo’s stake, Ma said.
“The board is actively looking at the full range of options available to return the company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation,” interim CEO Tim Morse said on a conference call earlier this week.
Yahoo recently agreed to extend a revenue-per-search pact with Microsoft in the U.S. and Canada through 2013. The accord had been set to run out in the first quarter of next year.
Microsoft may have concerns about its search-engine partnership, Yang said today. The alliance “may not have gone the way they wanted,” Yang said without elaborating.