I would love to play a hand or two of poker with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Bill Gates. It's just way too easy to tell when the guy is bluffing.
"Microsoft is focused on its independent strategy," he told reporters this morning during a Tokyo news conference.
Independent? You break up with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , and now you're touting celibacy? Better practice your poker face, because that kind of remark tells everyone else around the table that you're holding nothing.
It's hard to believe that a company willing to pay as much as $47.5 billion for a dot-com stalwart is now ready to rest on its own laurels. We may as well just start the office pool to see which big purchase Microsoft will announce next.
Whether it pursues a play on page views like CNET Networks (Nasdaq: CNET ) , or an established online display-advertising stalwart like Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) AOL, Microsoft won't waste any time in rounding up a poor man's Yahoo! at an even poorer man's price.
I understand the need to put on a brave face, given the Microhoo fallout. Unfortunately, Microsoft is coping with a reality in which Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) commands ever-greater market share with every passing quarter. There's no time for pride or vanity with Big G breathing down your neck.
Yahoo! isn't right for you, Mr. Softy? Sure. I'm not the only one who thought you were nuts for overpaying for it. However, you have $26.3 billion in cash and short-term investments, and a money tree of a business model. If you're serious about going the independent route, why lug all that cash around? Why not just declare another huge one-time dividend or fortify your share price with another massive stock buyback? You won't do it, because you're bluffing.
I'm not suggesting you're playing hard to get, hoping that Yahoo! comes running back into your arms on your terms. But whether you eventually snare Yahoo!, or move on to lucrative sites LinkedIn or Bankrate (Nasdaq: RATE ) , which attract the demographics high-paying sponsors crave, you won't beat Google on your own.
I'll see you back at the poker table, Bill. In the meantime, try to work on that tell of yours.
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