Microsoft and Yahoo: The morning after

July 30, 2009

Ah, the morning after.

Microsoft and Yahoo have finally come to an understanding, putting to rest what seemed like an endless back-and-forth (As Barry Diller said yesterday,  “We’re not going to have to talk about whether or not it’s going to happen anymore).

In case you were at the beach, on the golf course, riding your bike, or hiding out in a cave yesterday, here are the very basics: It’s a 10-year Web search deal; doesn’t include display; Microsoft will the guarantee revenue per search for the first 18 months; Yahoo expects deal to boost income by $500 million and save about $200 million in capex; Microsoft will pay traffic acquisition at an initial rate of 88 percent; Yahoo will act as the global sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers; etc. etc.

Just about everyone has weighed in on the deal, and more analysis is certain to come in the days ahead. In the meantime, here’s what we see as a few key questions about the deal.

Will it get regulatory approval? Tough call. It certainly will get a close look, given the high-profile names of the companies involved. And, remember, it leaves really only two major search engines rather than three. On the other hand, is the market really competitive at the moment? And won’t Google just keep extending its lead — and hurting competition — if Yahoo and Microsoft don’t get together? “Without this deal, I think it would be really unlikely that you’d have a market with three robust search providers in 10 years,” said Beau Buffier, an attorney with Shearman & Sterling LLP. (More here from Reuters)

What do advertisers and media buyers think? Most appear, at first blush, to be happy with the deal. Having one dominant search player — Google — makes it tough for the advertising community. So they seem to welcome the idea of some competition. Plus, it simplifies life for media agencies. “”This is extremely encouraging and introduces more balance into the search and display markets,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of British advertising group WPP. “It is good for our clients and our agencies and for regulators.” (More here from Reuters)

Can Yahoo and Microsoft put their differences aside? This is always a major hurdle in joint-ventures, partnerships and mergers. It could be especially difficult in this case, given the fiercely competitive nature of both companies. What’s more, in the case nobody is fully in control, unlike a takeover, where, it may be ugly, but one company can impose its will on another. “It ties them together but in a complicated way with no long-term certainty and limited control,” said Ryan Jacob, chief investment officer of Jacob Asset Management, which owns Yahoo shares. (More here from Reuters)

Who came out on top? This will be the big one — at least in dinner party circles.  The early opinion seems to be Mcrosoft (particularly if you want to use stock market performance as a gauge). True, Yahoo is getting a big 88 percent of revenues from sending queries to Microsoft, it will cut spending, and increase operating income. But what about the company itself? Is banking on display advertising really a smart move? Are they locked into a strategic no-man’s land for the next 10 years? As BreakingViews put it, “This turns Yahoo into a company oddly reminiscent of the Internet also-ran AOL.” Reuters columnist Eric Auchard offered a similar comparison, writing “For Yahoo shareholders, it’s value destruction not seen since the misguided merger of America Online and Time Warner at the peak of the dot-com era.” (More here from Reuters)

Keep an eye on:

  • Believe it or not, there is other news in the media world. For instance, Cablevision has approved the spinoff of its Madison Squarter Garden unit (Reuters).
  • Sony had a tough quarter, reporting a big loss. Again. But the company says better times may be in sight.  (Reuters)
3 comments

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Too little – too late. Decades of defective MS software coupled up with Yahoo on life support is hardly a compelling business case. The markets reacted as they should. So will consumers.

Posted by Wadda Joke | Report as abusive

I don’t care about the details of the deal. I can already search on Yahoo and Bing at the same time. It’s called http://www.dogreatgood.com. You also get Google and Ask and they donate to charities like the humane society and petfinder.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Great article again. Ever since I read the first article in your blog I have been looking forward to reading more and more of your articles.