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Yahoo's board debates selling core business

Yahoo's board is debating selling some of its core assets, CNBC learned Wednesday from sources close to the matter.

Shares of Yahoo were up more than 6 percent midmorning Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal originally reported the news on Tuesday regarding the tech company.

The board will meet Wednesday to review the plan for its spinoff of $32 billion in Alibaba shares and possibly debate selling Yahoo's core online businesses, the sources told CNBC. The board has received letters from multiple shareholders in recent days regarding the plan, CNBC has learned.

Shortly after the Journal report Tuesday, more than 300,000 Yahoo shares changed hands in after-hours trading, pushing the stock up 5.6 percent to $35.60.

Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer of Tigress Financial Partners, told CNBC that if Yahoo was to sell its main growth operations — the mobile, video, native advertising and social media (Mavens) units — all that would remain would be the poorly performing Internet search business. Selling both Mavens and the search unit would mean "there would be nothing left of the company," he said.

"I don't know why anybody would want to buy a line of business that's in decline and has stiff competition from Google and Microsoft," Feinseth said, referring to the search and "paid click advertising" unit. Alibaba itself could be interesting in buying the Mavens business, he added.

Mark Tinker, head of Framlington Equities Asia at AXA Investment Managers, said that other than Alibaba, Yahoo's businesses were not particularly enticing.

"All of these U.S. Internet giants are struggling to access the 670 million Chinese that are online, and obviously Alibaba is a key part of that," Tinker told CNBC. "If you spun off that, what have you got left? You've got something that can't compete with other big players."

He said investors should view Yahoo stock as a restructuring proposition, not a growth one.

Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer is in the fourth year of her turnaround effort at the struggling online company, which faces headwinds ranging from the departure of key executives to uncertainty over whether the massive Alibaba spinoff will qualify for tax-free status.

The Internal Revenue Service has refused to give Yahoo an assurance that the deal would not incur a tax bill when it moved the Alibaba stake into separate entity called Aabaco. Yahoo paid $1 billion in 2005 for a 40 percent stake in the Chinese internet giant.

Meanwhile, net revenue has fallen from $5.4 billion in 2008 to a projected $4 billion this year, while headcount was at 11,500 in September, down 32 percent from when Mayer was hired in July 2012.

Adding to Mayer's difficulties, activist investor Starboard Value has asked Yahoo to drop plans to sell its Alibaba stake and offload its core search and display advertising businesses instead. And in November, Standard & Poor's cut its unsolicited rating outlook on Yahoo to negative from stable, citing prospects for poor revenue growth and higher costs for acquiring traffic.

Yahoo declined to comment on the Journal report.

To read the full Journal report, click here.