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Mercredi, 07 Septembre 2011 23:12

What's Yahoo Really Worth?

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What's Yahoo Really Worth?

Yahoo founder and ex-CEO Jerry Yang wants you and all Yahoo employees to know that Yahoo is not for sale. Not. For. Sale.

However, Yang also wants you to know that the company is hiring advisory firms to “explore strategic options.”

So, if you happen to be taking a look and see something you simply must have, Yahoo might be persuaded to part with it. But whatever, no big deal.

Yahoo on Wednesday fired CEO Carol Bartz, sparking renewed speculation about the future of the company. Outcomes include a potential sale, thanks in part to the Wall Street Journal, which early on cited a single anonymous source saying the beleaguered company may be ready to put itself on the block.

The trouble is that it isn’t immediately clear what Yahoo’s best assets are, let alone whether it’s offering them. Putting the Chief Financial Officer in charge and issuing memos with vague generalities about “current business assets and platforms” and a “path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation” doesn’t really suggest a focus to help narrow it down.

This is what happens when you’ve been a generalist web, media and technology company for a really long time (at least in dot-com years). You gather up many different things.

For instance, Yahoo holds some reasonably value intellectual property, including a patent on instant search and search-based artificial intelligence. They were blowing this horn back in March, when they debuted Search Direct. Legacy and R&D products like that could be valuable to the right buyer.

Yahoo also has strong web media holdings, through both licensed and original content. It’s also placed an offer for Hulu, which its sellers might find more attractive than a proposal like Google’s that could drastically overhaul how Hulu does business.

As GigaOm executive editor Om Malik points out, Yahoo also has unusually strong global search and media assets, including Yahoo Japan and a stake in Chinese search company Alibaba. “Those Asian assets are the reason why Yahoo has a market capitalization of around $17 billion,” Malik says.

Finally, it’s not exciting to talk about, but Yahoo has tremendous market power and a long profitable future through simple inertia.

“At Yahoo you could probably cut back to 100 ops people and 200 sales people and rake in billions in revenue and profit for a decade or more,” writes CTO Sam Pullara at Reddit. “Yahoo’s business is driven by the adoption of Yahoo! Mail. Most people that use it (it is the largest email provider in the US) don’t realize they could put in rather than, so [they] stop there on their way to their inbox. That is enough to power nearly every other media site they control to the #1 position with the right mix of articles on the home page.”

“In fact,” Pullara adds, “most Yahoo! die hard users would like the message, ‘We are never going to change Yahoo! again. It will remain exactly like this from now on. No more redesigns. No new features. No changes of any kind. Your My Yahoo page is safe.’”

Reddit link via Jim Ray and Andrew Simone.

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