The company was wrong to walk away from Microsoft's
Today's column isn't about any of that. Yahoo! has earned its demotion, but just because Yahoo! is worth less, that doesn't mean it's worthless.
If we can all agree that the shares aren't going to Nil City -- and they aren't, Mr. Naysayer -- then it's just a matter of finding the right entry point as an opportunistic buyer.
The good news is that we may not be as far away as you think. Is it too early to begin sifting through the ruins for value? Maybe not. Let's go over a few of the reasons to get pumped about Yahoo! -- yes, pumped -- and see whether you find yourself back on board.
1. Yahoo! is not as pricy as you think
Shares of Yahoo! closed at $22.91 yesterday. That may not seem cheap. Yahoo! is trading at 47 times this year's earnings estimates and a still-lofty multiple of 36 based on next year's profit target. Faster-growing Google is fetching just 23 times next year's Wall Street guesstimate.
However, nearly half of Yahoo!'s market cap is backed by the company's Asian investments, and that's before its 40% stake in Alibaba.com parent Ali Baba unlocks more of its value by taking more of its subsidiaries public. Back the investments in Ali Baba, Gmarket
2. Change is coming
"Change you can believe in" is Barack Obama's campaign slogan, but it may as well apply to Yahoo!, too. CEO Jerry Yang said all of the right things after Terry Semel was booted a year ago. He promised that there would be no sacred cows and a vowed to lead deep 100-day soul-searching mission to formulate a strategy to turn Yahoo! around.
The problem for Yang is that Yahoo! shares were at $28.12 when the board tired of Semel's performance. Yang's problem, though, is your opportunity. If Yang can win back the market losses under his watch, investors can coast to a 23% gain off yesterday's close. If he can't increase shareholder value on his own, you'll be staring at a brand new slate of Yahoo! executives by this point next year, and you'll still win, especially since the company would be unlikely to once again promote from within. A dynamic outsider would be the only form of acceptable change, and that kind of move would come with an enthusiasm you can believe in.
3. Color outside the margins
There's a reason Yahoo! seems be the last kid to get picked. It's too slow. It has more fat than muscle. It posted a net profit margin of under 10% last year, less than half of what other search engine stars, such as Google and China's Baidu.com
There is a lot of room for improvement, obviously. Now that Yahoo! is ready to outsource its paid search to Google, Yahoo!'s margins are likely to improve substantially.
Still, Yahoo! won't ever catch up to Google? Yahoo! is weighed down by less lucrative display-advertising initiatives and suffers from lower-quality traffic, given its emphasis on free email, photo-sharing, and entertainment portals. However, even making up some of that ground can do explosive things to Yahoo!'s bottom line and profit multiples.
A few years ago, Hewlett-Packard
Google is unlikely to stumble as Dell did, but Yahoo! certainly has room for improvement.
Add it up
Expectations dictate stock prices. Everyone is slamming Yahoo! these days, me included. However, what is a shinier Yahoo! worth? What would you pay for a company with improving profitability, credible leadership (even if it's Yang himself), and healthier margins?
In an ideal world, where the market rightfully handicaps the score by backing out Yahoo!'s Asian holdings, and Yahoo! is putting out nearly Google-esque margins, getting into Yahoo! at today's price would be the equivalent of buying a dot-com bellwether at a low forward earnings multiple.
Can it happen? Can Yahoo! come close to perfection after stumbling through the past few years? You've seen it happen. HP did it.
Your turn, Yahoo!