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Microsoft faces critical decision over Yahoo

28 апреля 2008

Microsoft faces a critical decision in its three-month pursuit of Yahoo this week after its latest attempt to bring the embattled internet company to the negotiating table looked to have failed over the weekend.

The pressure on Microsoft to act mounted after Yahoo called the software company’s latest bluff, refusing to be drawn into takeover talks in spite of a three-week ultimatum that expired on Saturday.

The continuing stalemate has forced Microsoft to confront the decision of whether to mount an outright hostile bid, something it has threatened almost from day one but has shied away from out of fear of alienating Yahoo employees and angering shareholders who have been hoping for a higher price.

Microsoft executives said last week that another option would be to drop the unsolicited offer altogether, though that is considered unlikely. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive officer, had threatened to take Microsoft’s offer direct to Yahoo’s shareholders, and perhaps even to cut the price, if the internet company didn’t start talks by Saturday. He did not immediately follow through with that threat, leaving more time for Yahoo to start talks before the end of the weekend.

However, two people familiar with the situation said that there were no negotiations under way as of Sunday morning on the West Coast, and that there had not been any discussions between the two sides for several days.

Bankers representing the companies had met early last week but made no headway in breaking the deadlock over the value of the deal, which is currently worth $42.5bn, according to one of these people.

There were also signs on Sunday that Microsoft would draw the next step out even longer, leaving it until the “middle of the week” to make a decision. Microsoft’s hesitation appeared to reflect a difficult tactical decision, according to some observers. “I’m not sure anyone is going to benefit if it turns hostile, and Microsoft knows that,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. Turning hostile could force Yahoo to dig in deeper and put off any eventual deal even longer, he added.

Taking its offer direct to Yahoo shareholders would also leave Microsoft with the difficult tactical problem of how to pitch its bid.

The value of the cash-and-stock offer had fallen from an initial $31 a share to $29.68 at the end of last week as Microsoft’s share price has slipped. Making a formal bid at the original $31 a share would mean adding more cash or changing the exchange ratio, effectively improving the terms, something Microsoft has said publicly it will not do. In the stalemate that has developed, with each side looking to the other to blink first on price, such a move could hand a tactical advantage to Yahoo.

Источник: Financial Times

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