Yahoo: The New Activist Hotel

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Activist investors have been circling Yahoo in recent weeks after the firm decided against a plan to spinoff its Alibaba investment. Overall, Yahoo has been struggling considerably in the web services industry and given the relinquished plans for a divestiture of its Alibaba stake it seems the firm is now headed towards the sale of its entire business.

Starboard Value has been the most active activist investor in recent months. First with a letter suggesting significant expense reductions and spotlighting the out of balance value of the firm’s Alibaba stake which subsequently led to the potential spinoff of Alibaba. A few months later in November, after the firm renounced its IRS request for tax exemption of the spinoff, Starboard Value followed with a letter suggesting the sale of Yahoo’s core search and display businesses. On December 9, Yahoo did decide against its Alibaba spinoff, reporting it would now seek alternative plans including the sale of its core business.

Now more activists have thrown their hat in the ring. Among them Canyon Capital Advisors LLC and SpringOwl Asset Management LLC. Canyon has supported Starboard Value’s plan for a sale of the core business. Meanwhile, in a 99-page slide show SpringOwl has detailed a plan that could turnaround the company without a sale through tightened expense management and a more operational focus. Starboard Value has not yet responded since the December 9 Alibaba announcement.

Under intense pressure by shareholders, Yahoo has reported that it would provide greater detail on its strategic plans during its fourth quarter earnings call. With the firm’s adjusted EBITDA down 22.6% for the first three quarters and its core business revenue down 4% for the same time period it appears to have limited options in the current market environment. Despite a lack of full transparency on its strategic direction the firm has noted that it is considering potential acquirers.

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One such bidder that has expressed interest is Verizon. After completing its acquisition of AOL in June the firm has been growing its web business through the leadership of Tim Armstrong. It seems that a buy in from Verizon and combination of the AOL and Yahoo businesses could generate considerable shareholder value while also creating numerous synergies overall from AOL and Verizon.

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