Bunch of Yahoos

A string of Yahoo sales, engineering and product executives took the stage on Wednesday in the company’s first full-day briefing with analysts since May 2006, all with a mantra that came down from on high: “Today is the beginning of a journey back to respect,” said CEO Carol Bartz.

With page views increasing, Carl Icahn having drawn in his horns, and the company extending a deadline for finalizing a search agreement with Microsoft, the time was right for a love-in.

Finance Chief Tim Morse said Yahoo expects to achieve operating margins between 15 percent and 20 percent by 2012. After the third quarter’s “pathetic” 6 percent, shareholders would certainly consider that a more respectful performance.

Another way to show their respect would have been to give specific details on the engineering involved in the promised prestige. Executives said Yahoo would achieve the new margin targets by accelerating its revenue in the next few years, but demurred from providing a specific revenue growth target.

The company said it would invest in editorial staff to produce more original features, and tweak its online products to keep users on the site longer and boost advertising revenue.

Icahn takes a shot at CIT “Tammany Hall” financing

As if CIT didn’t have enough problems digging itself out of a credit morass, now it has Carl Icahn to contend with. Troubled by what he sees as sweetheart deals between CIT and its largest creditors, at the expense of the little-guy bondholder, Icahn has offered to underwrite the $6 billion the small-business lender says it needs to survive. Icahn’s offer sent CIT shares soaring by double digits … to well above a dollar.

In a letter to CIT’s board, Icahn said certain large bondholders are being offered an opportunity to purchase secured loans at prices well below their fair market value.

In the end, Icahn underwriting offer may serve more as a publicity stunt than a White Knight vanguard attempt to save CIT, which is busy searching for a new CEO — presumably, a restructuring artist.

Yahoo redo

Microsoft and Yahoo finally tied a knot, but not the knot that Yahoo shareholders have long yearned for. The new-economy giants inked a 10-year Web search deal in a bid to take on Google. Google shares barely budged but Yahoo’s sank more than 6 percent as the deal stopped short of combining display advertising businesses.

Back when this deal was all the rage, it was a story of egos. Then Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was ultimately thrown out for not getting a deal done. Veteran agitator Carl Icahn was in top form, blasting Yahoo from the Street. Now under the new management of Carol Bartz, expectations were slowly rising that a broader deal might get done.

The question now is whether the market that had for so long hoped for a big deal will see this one as at least a step in the right direction.

Biogen vote: from Pyongyang to Palm Beach

“This is not North Korea,” Alexander Denner, managing director of Icahn Partners, called out after Bruce Ross, Biogen‘s chairman called a surprise midday recess. Icahn representatives said they believed the move signaled their slate had won sufficient votes to be elected.

By the end of the day, Biogen was telling shareholders it still did not know if Icahn — who has called for the biotechnology company to be split in two — had won two seats on the board. In fact, results may not be known for weeks. “Later in June we will receive the final report of the inspector of elections,” Ross told the shareholders who stayed for the whole session. Last year, Icahn had sought to sell the company, and his slate of directors was voted down by a ratio of 75 to 25.

While unlikely to make it to the supreme court, one can imagine the dramatic dispute leading vote counters to check for dimpled chads, and while the count is unlikely to make it to the supreme court, Minnesotans have at least as good a chance of having a new Senator at this point as Biogen shareholders do of knowing the make-up of their board by the end of the month.

Icahn on their minds

A deal that just a couple of days ago was thought to have at least a 50-50 chance of being pulled off between Irish drugmaker Elan and Bristol-Myers Squibb turned out to be dead on the table after our drugs reporter Rans Pierson reported that talks between the two last month never got as far as price.

Elan markets multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri with Biogen Idec, which is holding a shareholder meeting today. While the soured prospects for that deal may be on investors’ minds, the issue will only come up briefly if at all, as the company has a much bigger ownership issue to deal with in the form of activist investor of Carl Icahn.

In his second proxy fight for board representation at Biogen, Icahn wants Biogen’s board to consider splitting the biotechnology company into one firm focused on neurology and another focused on cancer. Icahn also wants Biogen to examine its cost structure and improve its relationships with its partners.

from MediaFile:

Icahn vs Lions Gate heating up

Not so fast Mr. Icahn. Lions Gate Entertainment is trying to defend itself against famed financier Carl Icahn by hiring an advisory team, including investment bank Morgan Stanley and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz.

It also is in talks to offer a board seat to Mark Rachesky of MHR Fund Management, the studio's largest shareholder.

Icahn controls 14.5 percent of Lions Gate's shares and wants to increase his sway, seemingly because he's frustrated with things like costs and the company's decision to buy the TV Guide cable channel.

Man of Mystery

(Thanks to reader Bob, who caught the timeline errors in our first entry)

icahnb.jpgEli Lilly shareholders must have an itchy rash on their heads. Their management is set to pay a hefty $70 per share for cancer drug maker ImClone to rival a sweetened $62 per share bid from Bristol Myers that mercurial investor Carl Icahn has apparently whipped out. The mystery bidder has already completed due diligence and has the cash on hand to manage the deal. Analysts, generally unconvinced that this is a great strategic deal for Lilly. Shareholders could be less likely Lilly has a stomach for a bidding war if Bristol comes back. 

Austin PowersIcahn had called Bristol-Myers’ offer, which was increased by $2 per share, “absurd”, and ImClone says the unnamed suitor, who wants to remain shadowy until negotiations are over, does not need financing to put together the $6.1 billion-topping offer.

It seems fitting that the takeover of ImClone should be shrouded in intrigue. Founder Sam Waksal and his friend style icon Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to investigators over suspicious trading in its stock, and Carl Icahn brings his own mercurial blend of color and drama to the scene. One might find it poetic that the identity of this bidder is another stodgy old drug company rather than a media mogul, a style celeb or a flamboyant financier.

More Microhooey?

People walk past Yahoo! offices in Santa MonicaThe Wall Street Journal leads with a piece saying Microsoft is preparing a new bid for Yahoo‘s search business that could bring on board media giants Time Warner and News Corp and effectively lead to Yahoo’s breakup. The talks are preliminary and unlikely to result in a deal with Yahoo, the paper said, and although it all seems whimsical, Yahoo shares jumped more than 6 percent in early trade. Yahoo rejected a $47.5 billion takeover offer by Microsoft, and earlier this week questioned whether the software maker was ever serious about a full-scale merger. Carl Icahn, who is running a slate of directors to replace Yahoo’s board and has called for the removal of Chief Executive Jerry Yang, has met with Microsoft, which is encouraging him to press his proxy contest as a way to keep pressure on Yahoo to enter into a deal that would lift its share price, the paper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

British events organizer and publisher Informa said it was considering a 2.15 billion pound ($4.3 billion) bid approach from a consortium of private equity firms, sending its shares 10 percent higher. Informa said in a statement that Providence Equity, The Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman had made a bid proposal of 506 pence a share on June 26. “Discussions continue to be at an early stage and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made,” it said. When news emerged last month that the equity firms were working on a bid for the media company, the shares showed only modest gains as analysts questioned whether a deal would succeed in the current tight credit markets.

The markets took down another deal yesterday. Blaming grim market conditions Blockbuster abandoned its $1.3 billion offer to buy electronics retailer Circuit City. Shares of the video rental chain jumped more than 7 percent in extended trade after the news while Circuit City’s shares fell 1.6 percent, after declining nearly 12 percent at Tuesday’s close — hitting their lowest point in two decades. Speculation that a potential deal with Blockbuster would not happen gained ground after Circuit City posted a wider quarterly loss and cut its dividend in June.