Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Will Microsoft buy Yahoo?

Microsoft is looking to buy Yahoo as a way of staving off Google, according to sources speaking with the New York Post. The newspaper claims that the Redmond software company is considering a deal that could be worth $50 billion to buy Yahoo to improve its distant third-place standing in search advertising, which is dominated by Google. The frustration is said to have reached a boil in recent months as Google has bought many of the companies Microsoft had been interested in, especially web advertiser DoubleClick. This in particular may have been the tipping point, as shown when Microsoft argued that Google was creating a monopoly.
Google considers the possibility of a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo anti-competitive and possibly threatening to the Internet as a whole, says company Chief Legal Officer David Drummond in an official blog. The official argues that Microsoft's historic approach of establishing and extending proprietary standards is opposite to the very notion of the Internet; a Yahoo deal could potentially recreate Microsoft's leverage with Office and Windows on a much wider level, Drummond says.
"Between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet," he explains. "Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services?"
Microsoft has issued a formal rebuttal to the argument, dismissing notions that an acquisition of Yahoo is an attempt to create a monopoly and contends instead that Google's 75 percent control of search revenue means that an acquisition of Yahoo would create more competition rather than less. "The alternative scenarios only lead to less competition on the Internet," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith claims, also arguing that Microsoft supports openness.
Regardless, sources within Yahoo are allegedly reporting that the search engine firm is investigating the possibility of allying with Google as an attempt to stave off a hostile Microsoft takeover. The plan would revive earlier talks between the two companies and may have been spurred along by a call by Google chief Eric Schmidt to Yahoo's own chief Jerry Yang, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Other large financial, media, and technology firms have also expressed interest, though no bids have been made apparent, the insiders say. Yahoo is believed by some to be aggressively seeking alternative offers after considering the Microsoft offer as a threat rather than the invitation suggested by the latter's official reasons behind the proposal.
Microsoft may need to abandon its longstanding financial independence to complete a takeover of Yahoo, the company said late yesterday. Despite its large cash reserves, the company's Chief Finance Officer Chris Liddell acknowledged that the $44.6 billion proposed deal might require that the firm borrow money and accumulate debt. While the $21 billion in reserves owned by the Windows developer would cover nearly all the cash portion of the proposed deal, a loan would help Microsoft avoid wiping out these reserves and leaving itself without options if it needs more cash in the near future, according to the executive.
The willingness to rely on loans indicates Microsoft's commitment to its proposed bid, which is widely understood to be an attempt to thwart Google's control of search and web advertising. The company has officially claimed to be creating a viable alternative in the market.
However, reports have surfaced that Yahoo considers Microsoft a threat and that the company is considering an alliance with Google or other alternative firms as an attempt to make a Microsoft deal impractical or impossible. Google has commented on the deal and warned that Microsoft might translate its monopolies with Office and Windows to the Internet by creating proprietary web standards.

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