Microsoft stands firm on Yahoo bid

ballmerfinger2.jpgThose of you who missed him in Morocco caught up with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Milan after Yahoo reported better than expected results, even though they fell short of stellar.

No surprise, he’s standing firm on the $44 billion offer and promises to stick by a threat to go directly to shareholders if Yahoo rejects the offer by the Saturday deadline.

Bloomberg also reports that Ballmer is willing to walk away from the deal. “We are prepared to go forward without a merger with Yahoo,” Ballmer says.

Yahoo’s Jerry Yang wouldn’t mind so much. We’re not so sure Yahoo shareholders would agree.

(Reuters) (Bloomberg)

Keep an eye on:

    Apple buys chip maker PA Semi for $278 million in cash possibly, for the iPhone. (Forbes) Rupert Murdoch revives media ownership debate. (NYT ) Chinese lawyers sue CNN over “goons” comment: paper (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)

Yahoo: No surprises there

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.

Good things come in threes for Murdoch

murdochfist1.jpgNews Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dominated headlines again on Tuesday as not one, but at least three news items rippled across the media world.

As shareholders of rival paper The New York Times assemble on Tuesday morning for its annual meeting held at the company’s glittering new headquarters near Times Square, Murdoch took steps to accelerate the remaking of the Wall Street Journal in his image. WSJ is set to announce today the resignation of its managing editor Marcus Brauchli, who is leaving 11 months into the job and just a few months following the closing of Murdoch’s $5 billion purchase of Dow Jones. Murdoch appointee and publisher Robert Thomson will take over the top editorial spot in the interim, according to news reports. 

Meanwhile, News Corp deal makers across town appear poised to reach a deal to relieve real estate magnate and Tribune Chief Sam Zell of his Newsday newspaper for about $580 million to create a joint venture to combine Murdoch’s New York Post and other assets with Tribune’s paper. The Newsday deal is expected to cut about $50 million in annual losses at the Post. 

Blockbuster + Circuit City = 3?

blockbuster-ceo-jim-keyes.jpgEyeing the disintegration of its brick and mortar rental business, Blockbuster offered to buy electronics retailer Circuit City for $6 a share, the rental giant revealed on Monday.

But will one plus one equal three? Putting together two struggling companies have rarely been a good idea.

The bid shouldn’t be a surprise, however. For months, Blockbuster CEO James Keyes has aimed to invest more heavily in its stores by adding more merchandise including entertainment electronics while pulling back on competing with online rental service Netflix.

Yahoo investor backs management if Microsoft trims bid

yang-pensive.jpgYahoo shareholder Legg Mason tells the Wall Street Journal it’s ready to back Yahoo’s effort to stay independent if Microsoft lowers its buyout offer.

In an interview, portfolio manager Bill Miller of Legg Mason, which is the second biggest Yahoo shareholder with a nearly 7 percent stake, calls Microsoft’s moves to threaten a lowered bid a “blunder.”

“If Microsoft lowers the price I’m not prepared to say that’s better than Yahoo remaining independent,” he said.

Yahoo to Microsoft: $teve, let’$ talk

Jerry Yang, Yahoo CEO and co-founder speaks at a keynote address at the CES in Las Vegas

“Dear Steve, it’s us, the Yahoo Guys again. Thanks for that whole deal deadline thing. Listen, our business is doing just fine. If you want to talk some more about acquiring us, $ay $omething we haven’t already heard, OK? Thanks. Jerry.”

The letter from Yahoo’s board released on Monday said the Web media company still isn’t pleased with Microsoft’s $31 a share offer, but hey, that doesn’t mean they can’t work something out, you know, for more money.

“We have continued to make clear that we are not opposed to a transaction with Microsoft if it is in the best interests of our stockholders. Our position is simply that any transaction must be at a value that fully reflects the value of Yahoo, including any strategic benefits to Microsoft, and on terms that provide certainty to our stockholders.”

Big is the new small

karmazin-smile.jpgWho needs competition when you have a nice big merger to complete? After 13 months of Congressional haggling that would have put John McCain to shame, Sirius chief Mel Karmazin won U.S. Department of Justice approval for his $5 billion marriage with XM Satellite Radio.
Sure they’re the only two subscription radio operators, but with all those iTunes downloads and Web radio personalities, there’s no need to think anyone will suffer with Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey in their exclusive hands.   
Most expect the FCC will come through with the final green-light for XM and Sirius to close the deal, and then the real work on actually making money from satellite will begin.
We’re still a little stuck on the regulatory landscape that seems to err on the side of bigness, from Verizon and AT&T’s billion-dollar wireless spectrum wins, to a push from underdogs like Microsoft and Google to use the blank spaces of TV spectrum for mobile Internet and the ability to even contemplate a scenario in which Rupert Murdoch buys Newsday.
Let the games begin.

Reuters, Deal Journal, Silicon Alley Insider

Keep an eye on:

    Google unveiled plans for a new generation of wireless devices to operate on soon-to-be-vacant television airwaves, and sought to alleviate fears that this might interfere with TV broadcasts or wireless microphones.  (Reuters) Fox Broadcasting asked U.S. regulators to reconsider indecency fines the government imposed last month on 13 Fox television stations for airing episodes of a reality TV show in 2003.  (Reuters) Hulu video site looks great, but in terms of consistently good service, not so much. (Silicon Alley Insider) The CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment tells the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German!) that the company is developing an online music subscription service that would give users unlimited access to its music and be compatible with a host of digital music players.
    (Associated Press)

(Photo: Reuters / Mel Karmazin)

Wall St Poll-Microsoft nabs Yahoo, but at what price?

yahoo_hq_yahoo_car_kimberly_white_reuters_cropped.jpgThe latest data from a Reuters poll of Wall Street analysts who track either Microsoft Corp or Yahoo Inc, shows 28 of 30 analysts expect Microsoft to prevail in its unsolicited bid to acquire Yahoo, which is currently valued at $41.7 billion.

Fourteen analysts expect Microsoft to stand by its initial offer price of $31 per share in an equal mix of cash and stock. Four analysts expect Microsoft to keep offer at $31 per share but make all-cash offer, effectively raising the deal’s value.

Twelve analysts expect Microsoft to raise price to between $31.50 and $35 per share.

UPDATE: AOL’s buying spree

kickapps-logo.JPGThe ink has barely dried on AOL’s $850 million proposed purchase of Bebo, but reports of another deal are already percolating. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher reports AOL is seriously considering buying New York-based widget-maker KickApps for $90 million.

KickApps makes widgets to order for a broad range of companies, such as a car search widget for Autobytel and a social community for Time Warner’s CW TV network’s “Gossip Girl,” Swisher says.

Investors Softbank Capital, Prism VentureWorks and Spark Capital and others have dropped $17 million into KickApps.

Disney on AOL – “NO” comment

iger.jpgNot that anyone was suspicious, but in case you’re wondering Disney isn’t buying AOL .

Iger blurted that out in response to BusinessWeek editor John Byrne’s question on stage at the McGraw-Hill Media Summit in New York on Wednesday.

Byrne: “Can we expect Disney to make another big acquisition? Would you think about AOL for example?”