Shares of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) were hit hard last week as investors feared that the tragedy in Japan would put a halt to the company's discussions with SoftBank to possibly unload its 35% share of Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo! investors have been impatiently waiting for Yahoo! to unlock the value in some of its Asian assets which I believe make up the majority of the company's value, so the response was quite predictable. However, it was also unwarranted and provides a buying opportunity for those who still believe in the Yahoo! sum of the parts story.
Both sides badly want to get a deal done -- Yahoo! to appease its investor base and move forward with its strategic divestment plan, and SoftBank to add to its 42% stake in Yahoo! Japan and rid itself of a contentious business relationship. Even more important to both sides is its shared interest in Alibaba.
Yahoo! has a 40% stake in the leading e-commerce site in China, but it is also very important to SoftBank, which has a 30% stake in Alibaba. The Chinese company marries features of both eBay and Amazon.com, and has a dominant market share in business-to-business transactions. After Chinese Internet companies E-Commerce China Dangdang (NYSE: DANG ) and Youku.com (NYSE: YOKU ) went public at frothing valuations in spite of being a secondary player in e-commerce (Dangdang) or wildly unprofitable (Youku), attention has turned to what Alibaba's valuable franchises could be worth.
SoftBank has maintained a strong relationship with Alibaba, as well as its founder and Chinese business icon Jack Ma, while reports point to Yahoo! having strained relations with both Ma and SoftBank. Since both sides would like nothing more than to get Yahoo! out of the picture, the company has some important bargaining power and two willing parties.
Even as these negotiations continue, Yahoo! appears ready to continue with its plans to slim down the brand to its core money-making assets. The company is apparently close to selling bookmark site Delicious to StumbleUpon for a reported $1 million to $2 million. Obviously, this deal is way too small to move the stock needle, but it shows that Yahoo! is indeed serious about its plans to restructure the company and finally reward shareholders who have been waiting for the company to narrow its focus. Yahoo! bought Delicious back in 2005 for a still-unknown figure, but an amount believed to be anywhere between $10 million and $15 million, and was just one in a string of poor acquisitions that didn't find a strategic fit within the company.
However, CEO Carol Bartz has the company focused on its core businesses that are showing real improvement, while also unloading assets that no longer fit in the company's strategic plan going forward. The Japanese tragedy may have provided a small setback for Yahoo!, but the company is eager to move forward with its plan, and I expect a deal to still get done.
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