Yahoo rebuffs Microsoft again

Updated: 2008-04-08 09:19

SAN FRANCISCO -  Brushing aside the threat of a disruptive takeover battle that could batter its shaky stock, Internet pioneer Yahoo Inc. reiterated its refusal to sell to Microsoft Corp. for less than $45 billion (euro29 billion).

Yahoo's defiance, spelled out in a letter Monday to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, marked the latest twist in a tug-of-war pitting two high-tech icons trying to mount a more formidable challenge to online search and advertising leader Google Inc.

The increasingly tense struggle now appears to have reached a turning point after more than two months of mostly behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

Analysts believe the two rivals will either broker a friendly transaction before the end of the month or wrestle for the allegiance of Yahoo's shareholders in a prickly showdown that could drag into the summer.

Most people following the saga still seem to think Microsoft - the world's richest tech company - holds the upper hand over Yahoo, which has been mired in a two-year slump and unable so far to find an alternative deal that would trump Microsoft's original offer of $44.6 billion (euro28.4 billion), or $31 (euro19.75) per share.

"They both have some leverage, but the greatest leverage still appears to rest with Microsoft," said Morton Pierce, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who advises on corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Ballmer turned up the heat up on Yahoo over the weekend by setting an April 26 deadline for the Sunnyvale-based company to accept Microsoft's offer.

If Yahoo's board doesn't relent, Ballmer threatened to lower Microsoft bid's and ask Yahoo's shareholders to replace the 10 directors resisting a takeover in a "proxy" contest.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock and Chief Executive Jerry Yang, also a member of the company's board, fired back Monday in a letter that criticized Ballmer for not doing more to advance the negotiations.

Ballmer attended at least two of the informal meetings held between Microsoft and Yahoo, according to Bostock and Yang.

The letter didn't rule out further discussions as long as Ballmer is prepared to sweeten the unsolicited offer, which Yahoo first demanded in early February after its board unanimously concluded the bid wasn't high enough.

"We are steadfast in our commitment to choosing a path that maximizes stockholder value and we will not allow you or anyone else to acquire the company for anything less than its full value," Bostock and Yang told Ballmer.

Microsoft had no immediate response to the Yahoo letter.

The letter didn't specify how much Yahoo believes it's worth, but some analysts have estimated that Microsoft could afford to pay as much as $34 or $35 per share - about $50 billion - to end the impasse without further acrimony.

"Microsoft will raise the offer in the end," predicted Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. analyst David Hilal. "This deal is too important to Microsoft for it to fail."

Other analysts doubt Microsoft will budge.

Microsoft's bid was 62 percent above Yahoo's market value when it was announced February 1.

But the offer's value has declined since then because Microsoft wants to pay half the price with its own stock, which has declined by 11 percent since the Yahoo chase began.

   1 2   

Top World News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours