Still No Deal For Yahoo--Period


I'll say from the outset that I have great respect for the Wall Street Journal.

But I, along with a number of folks following the Yahoo/Microsoft will-they-or-won't-they drama are wondering what the point is of today's splashy, front-page tome purporting to break new ground about a new deal to grab a chunk of the company.

And maybe Yahoo's spike today from the sub-$20 range yesterday to just shy of $22 today is a testament to the trader mentality and their short attention span. Why? Here's the lead paragraph in the Journal story:

"Microsoft Corp., positioning itself for a new run for Yahoo Inc.’s search business, has approached other media companies in recent days about joining it in a deal that would effectively lead to Yahoo’s breakup, say people familiar with the discussions."

Sounds good. Yahoo, or at least a chunk of it, is back in play. But the next paragraph, not buried deep in the story, but the VERY next sentence, says, "Microsoft has held discussions with Time Warner Inc. and News Corp., among others, say some people involved in the discussions. These people say the talks are unlikely to result in a deal."

Unlikely to result in a deal. In other words, let's light a fire and then put it out. In the very same story. Unreal.

The rest of the piece focuses on the tick-tock of negotiations, reports a few new nuggets of color involving the personalities and their actions along the way, but by and large, this is a whole lot of the same stuff we've all heard, and all reported.

It is no secret that Microsoft has reached out to Time-Warner and AOL, and News Corp.'s MySpace. It's also no secret, as I have reported time and again, that Microsoft's Steve Ballmer wants Yahoo's search business. And that Yahoo doesn't want to sell it.

Yahoo shares today suggest otherwise, but I really think today's "news" is a non-starter. And sources I'm talking to at both companies back this up.

As I see it, a deal for Yahoo's search business only happens if CEO Jerry Yang and team lose their jobs at the shareholder meeting Aug 1.

I said in a report on Gates' last day that Microsoft was sniffing for a total buy-out of Facebook (with a rumored pricetag of $20B) or AOL (which could cost $15B.) Microsoft can't force Yahoo to sell its Search business--which also brings into question the Journal's suggestion that Microsoft could somehow put together a group of companies like News Corp. and Time-Warner to effect that kind of thing. And if Yahoo wouldn't sell itself for a 70% premium, it ain't selling Search, for which Microsoft has already offered an enormous premium.

I don't think there's a lot of "there" there with this story and I wonder if the rumors are coming from Carl Icahn's office. I'm not going to impugn his reputation, but there was a lot of speculation that last week's rumors--which we also dashed--that Yahoo was back in play came from his people.

Remember, he looked good there for awhile with his 68 million Yahoo shares as they rose amid speculation early on that a deal with Microsoft could happen.

Now, he's down about $300 million on his investment, and unlike lots of other investors in the company, he can do something about the slide with a well-placed tidbit for traders to chew on.

I'm not saying he's responsible for this, but once again, rumors and traders are ruling the day with Yahoo investors caught in the jetwash.

And with a move like this one, on something so thin, it all just goes to show how vulnerable--and desperate--Yahoo investors have become.

Questions? Comments?