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Report: Yahoo! open to further talks with Microsoft

Staff Reporter

Yahoo! is willing to negotiate further with Microsoft, top executive Jerry Yang said in an interview on Tuesday, as he defended his handling of the aborted takeover bid. "We were totally willing to do a transaction, and they walked away," Yahoo! CEO Yang told the Financial Times, adding that he is open to renewing negotiations with Microsoft.

Yahoo! is willing to negotiate further with Microsoft, top executive Jerry Yang said in an interview on Tuesday, as he defended his handling of the aborted takeover bid.

“We were totally willing to do a transaction, and they walked away,” Yahoo! CEO Yang told the Financial Times, adding that he is open to renewing negotiations with Microsoft.

“We’ve put out a way of having them buy Yahoo!, giving them a path to do that. If that’s what they want to do, we would be open to a conversation.”

Yahoo! shares sank 15% by the close of trading on Monday but remained $5 above the price of the stock when Microsoft made its February 1 offer, signalling that many in the market believe the deal is not dead.

“I don’t think it’s over,” IDC analyst Karsten Weide said of Microsoft’s quest to acquire Yahoo!.

“I think what really happened is Microsoft called Yahoo!‘s bluff.”

Yahoo! announced it had picked July 3 as the date for an annual shareholders’ meeting, expected to feature fireworks from peeved investors.

All ten members of Yahoo!‘s board of directors are up for re-election at the meeting, and the announcement of a date opens the window for nominating people to run against the incumbents.

Yahoo! stockholders will be furious and litigious, putting tremendous pressure on the firm to quickly come up with an impressive business plan or go crawling back to Microsoft, analysts believe.

“The question for Yahoo! is, how long can they hold out,” Weide said.

Microsoft’s stock price ended on Monday down slightly at $29,08, hinting that the market thinks the world’s leading software maker needs a Yahoo! tie-up to battle internet advertising colossus Google.

Google’s stock price climbed more than 2%, in a sign investors feel the Microsoft setback is good for the Mountain View, California-based company.

On Saturday, Microsoft yanked its Yahoo! proposal, saying the struggling internet pioneer refused to budge despite the software giant upping its offer to nearly $50-billion.

Microsoft raised its offer from $31 to $33 per Yahoo! share during talks aimed at resolving three months of corporate duelling.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said Yang refused to accept less than $37 per share, a $5-billion bump in purchase price.

Yang said earlier in his company blog that Yahoo! would be better able to move forward without the distraction of a takeover bid.

“No one is celebrating about the outcome of these past three months and no one should,” Yang wrote in a memo posted on the Yahoo! website.

“We live and work in a competitive world and the web is only going to get more competitive. Executing on our strategic plan is what matters most.”

Analysts were all over the map in their assessment of Microsoft’s decision to drop its bid for Yahoo!.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land said the software giant may have shot itself in the foot by refusing to come up with the extra cash needed to seal the deal.

“If Microsoft’s walkaway from the Yahoo! deal is indeed a ploy to save $5-billion, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may have proven himself pennywise and pound foolish,” Sullivan said.

“We applaud Microsoft’s decision,” said Robert Breza, analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “We would expect Microsoft will look to other internet and media properties.”

Citigroup Analyst Brent Thill said that due to the lack of alternatives to Yahoo! in the marketplace, there was a chance that both Microsoft and Yahoo! could still “reconcile their differences” and join forces.—AFP

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