A Yahoo! Inc booth at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas. Yahoo owns a 43-percent equity interest in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Alibaba failed to buy back stakes owned by Yahoo last year. [Photo / Agencies]
BEIJING - Yahoo! Inc still has a considerable say over Alibaba Group Holding Ltd after the Chinese e-commerce giant ceded ownership of its online payment business, said analysts.
Yahoo's equity interest in Alibaba's subsidiary, Alipay.com Co Ltd, was transferred to a separate company, which will control Alipay, in order to help expedite necessary approvals for a regulatory license to operate an online payment business, Yahoo disclosed in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.
The shift is to a company majority-owned by Alibaba's Chief Executive Officer Jack Ma. The move came following Alibaba's failed attempts to buy back a stake owned by Yahoo last year.
The relationship between the companies has been deteriorating, especially after Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz replaced co-founder Jerry Yang to take leadership of the company.
Yahoo owns a 43-percent equity interest in Alibaba, according to the filing.
Details of the transfer were not disclosed. Yahoo said Alibaba's management is still negotiating the economic terms of the restructuring with its principal shareholders, Yahoo and Softbank Corp, over the transfer of Alipay ownership.
Analysts said they do not expect Yahoo to lose ownership of Alibaba's other subsidiaries, especially Taobao.com, China's largest online retail site by sales.
"Yahoo will definitely not let go of the interests already in its hands," said Hu Yanping, general manager of the Beijing-based research company Data Center of China Internet.
For other subsidiaries of Alibaba such as Taobao.com, Hu said the online retailer will not face similar regulations.
Taobao is one of Alibaba's most valuable assets because it occupies more than 70 percent of China's online shopping market.
The extent of Yahoo's stake in Taobao.com is not known.
This is crucial for Yahoo in Asia's Internet market, said Tang Mingjun, an analyst with Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co Ltd.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc said that the transfer does not directly change its view of the value of Yahoo. It rated Yahoo as "neutral".
Goldman Sachs said in a research note that "the acquiring entity will ultimately compensate Yahoo and Softbank in some fashion".
Alipay said in a statement that the transfer is based on the PBOC's requirement that domestic capital should be the controlling stakeholder in a third-party online payment company and that it could pose financial security risks for users.
Alipay had 51.2 percent of China's online payment market in 2010, followed by Tencent Holdings Ltd's Tenpay with 23.3 percent, and 99bill.com's 6.3 percent.