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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Microsoft exit hits Yahoo shares


Yahoo's shares fell by more than 15% in New York after software giant Microsoft scrapped its three-month-old bid to buy the internet firm.

Analysts said that that the share price dip was not as severe as expected - fuelling expectation of a potential further bid later.

"I was expecting to see a more extreme reaction to Microsoft's withdrawn bid", said Clayton Moran, an analyst with Stanford Group.

"Microsoft is trying to make it seem like it's not coming back (with another bid), but this somewhat muted reaction shows the market isn't buying it."

Meanwhile Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co analyst, analyst David Hilal said that "Microsoft could re-enter the picture, essentially playing the role of the white knight".

Yahoo shares initially fell by 20% but pared some of their losses to close 15.6% down at $24.22, erasing a big chunk of the 50% gain made since the takeover approach.

In Frankfurt, Yahoo's shares ended down 12.59% at 15.83 euros ($24.52).

Legal action

Analysts said Yahoo must come up with some answers about what it would do next.

"Mr Yang is certainly under a lot of pressure now," said Roland Hirschmueller, an equities trader at German brokerage Baader.

"His days are numbered, if he doesn't manage to come [up] with an alternative strategy," he added.

Mr Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, said the firm had raised its original offer from $44.6bn to $47.5bn (24.1bn) - $33 per share.

But he added that Yahoo had insisted on at least $53bn, or $37 a share - which was more than Microsoft was prepared to pay.

"You are going to see a lot of shareholders just throwing in the towel because they are going to realise it's going to take a while for the stock to get back to where it was Friday," said Scott Kessler, an analyst at Standard & Poor's.

Goals

Analysts said Yahoo could face legal action from shareholders after rejecting the bid.

Microsoft had wanted to do a deal to be able to compete with Google, which dominates the lucrative market for internet advertising.

This market was worth $40bn in 2007 and is predicted to double to $80bn by 2010.

In his letter to Yahoo's chief executive Mr Yang, which was posted on the Microsoft website, Mr Ballmer said: "We continue to believe that our proposed acquisition made sense for Microsoft, Yahoo and the market as a whole.

"Despite our best efforts, including raising our bid by roughly $5bn, Yahoo has not moved toward accepting our offer."

"After careful consideration, we believe the economics demanded by Yahoo do not make sense for us, and it is in the best interests of Microsoft stockholders, employees and other stakeholders to withdraw our proposal."

Mr Ballmer also told Yahoo's boss that he would not pursue his original plan B of launching a hostile takeover battle, because Mr Yang would "take steps that would make Yahoo undesirable as an acquisition for Microsoft".

Mr Ballmer told his own employees that Microsoft could achieve its goals without Yahoo, albeit at a slower pace.

Yahoo maintained that Microsoft had offered too little to buy the company.

In a statement issued after Microsoft's withdrawal, Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock dismissed the unsolicited bid as a "distraction".


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