In the midst of all the hemming and hawing over the potential meltdown of the financial system, and the pitched discussions about the "bailout-rescue" and other schemes to avert it, it is easy for other significant news to barely get noticed. (I am working on a major post on many of the psychological aspects of the entire debacle, look for it soon.)
Such as the fact that Yahoo’s stock has been declining dramatically over the last few weeks, falling through a relatively steady support level around the $19 mark that it had stood at on January 31 of this year before the beginning of the "Micro-hoo" attempted hostile take-over saga.
Having already slid a few more dollars from a range around $21 after the regulatory headwinds to the Yahoo-Google search ad serve outsourcing deal started picking up, it then fell through various support levels all the way down to as low as $15.50 (settling at $16 for the week). I don’t mean to bore you with stock market speak, this is only to get across the increasingly precarious situation that Yahoo finds itself in:
1) I have argued repeatedly that the entire Micro-hoo saga would take a severe toll on the productivity at both Yahoo AND Microsoft, and judging from the dearth of useful roll-outs and even mere announcements (and I doesn’t take much to keep Wall Street happy with announcements) from either company, I was right.
Steve Ballmer has claimed that the Yahoo purchase attempt had been just a tactic, and that Microsoft could go it alone, but since then he really hasn’t said much of substance that could be construed to be a credible Internet strategy for Microsoft.
UPDATE: Incidentally, I just looked up the beginning of year prices pre-bid (1/31/08) again:
As of 10/8, YHOO has lost 26% from $19 to $14, but MSFT has lost almost as much: 25% from $32 to $24! Sign of superior management skills and credibility at MSFT?
Check out what David Einhorn said today in his letter to his hedge fund clients (via AlleyInsider):
… Since then, management has acted in an overaggressive and almost panicky fashion regarding its online offering. First, it sought to acquire Yahoo! and then after that failed, it announced extremely high internal investment requirements to pursue this “huge” opportunity (read: “Google-envy”). We doubt the opportunity is what they say it is and wish MSFT focused on its core strength: software.
The CEO is a very smart and very wealthy man. Perhaps, he is so wealthy that he has bigger ideas and aspirations than making MSFT’s shareholders wealthier. We’ve given up on MSFT for now…
2) I said it would take a massive effort by Yahoo’s Jerry Yang and Co. to get the ship righted at Yahoo after all of the distractions, and the deteriorating economic conditions haven’t helped. I guess I had really been hoping for Jerry to jump into full-scale survival mode and ride on a wave of adrenalin from the Micro-hoo negotiations.
But it now looks as if Yahoo is drifting helplessly, with consulting firm Bain apparently hired to set up major lay-offs in the coming weeks.
3) The stock price mentioned above is almost exactly half the offer of $31 per share that Microsoft had launched (though that number was partially in non-price-guaranteed Microsoft stock, which was already moving down after the announcement).
So that puts the speculation of Microsoft buying all or part of Yahoo back on the table. (Not to speak of the continued rage that most Yahoo shareholders have been venting toward the board over the failed/prevented deal for months.)
I have written several posts worth of arguments on the lack of soundness of a simple buy-out plan, and could write several more, but thankfully I don’t have to:
Henry Blodget of the Silicon Alley Insider has written a very concise, yet thorough post this week on why the original plan was never a good idea, and why an alternative proposal, a spin-out of Microsoft’s own foundering Internet division into Yahoo plus cash, would be a much better idea.
I have participated in the discussions on his blog for months, and so feel that at least in some small measure I have contributed to various points made in the post. Here a quote that rings of my repeated arguments about the Internet going against Microsoft’s corporate DNA:
At Microsoft, the Internet will always play second fiddle to the Windows and Office cash cows. At Google, every idea that will disrupt Microsoft is rushed into production. At Microsoft, every such idea will be buried in politics and bureaucracy. This will make it very hard for Microsoft to attract and retain the best talent…
If you have any interest in the future of either of those two companies, the competition against Google for domination of the Internet, or simply the business strategy examples inherent therein, the post is absolutely worth a read. Here the link again:
Best wishes during "interesting times"
– Alex Schleber