Yahoo: No surprises there

April 23, 2008

jerry-1.jpgWe weren’t expecting huge surprises during Yahoo’s earnings conference call, but CEO Jerry Yang was spectacularly vague about the Internet company’s plans vis-a-vis Microsoft or any other potential tie-ups — with Google, Time Warner’s AOL or News Corp — that Yahoo has been working on.

At the very start of the call, Yang essentially said “Don’t go there” to analysts and investors, reminding them about the purpose of the call.

“I’d like to remind you that today’s call is about our Q1 results, so please direct your questions to the quarter if possible,” Yang said.

When he touched on Microsoft — referring to it as three months of “uncertainty” — it was to reiterate the same line: “Our board and management are committed to choosing a path to maximize shareholder value.”

At the same time, Yang was bent on convincing analysts and investors that, despite an unchanged revenue forecast for the year, Yahoo deserves a higher price than the $43 billion cash-and-stock deal that Microsoft has offered. Is that because Yahoo piggybacked on gains from a stake in China’s Alibaba.com to a higher quarterly profit? Or because Yang said Yahoo’s “strategies and investments are beginning to pay off”?

Not that analysts or investors were convinced. Most continue to believe that Yahoo’s earnings are unlikely to put pressure on Microsoft on raise its bid.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, meanwhile, said before the earnings, “I wish Yahoo all the success with its results, but it doesn’t affect the value of Yahoo to Microsoft.”

So where does that leave Yahoo now? Wednesday might offer some clues, when Yahoo’s two-week test on outsourcing search advertising to Google ends. Or it may not. Yahoo chairman Sue Decker already swatted hopes on the call, saying it’s “premature” to speculate on what sort of deal the two might strike.

Photo: Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang (Reuters)

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