Yahoo-Alibaba Talks Break Down

Photo by Fred Prouser, Reuters
(Reuters) – Yahoo Inc and its Asian partners, China’s Alibaba and Japan’s Softbank Corp, have called off talks over a tax-free sale of the U.S. company’s prized Asian assets, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Collapse of the proposed deal — referred to as a cash-rich split-off — would mark the latest setback for an erstwhile Internet media giant now struggling to turn its business around and appease unhappy shareholders.

The source, confirming a report by the influential technology blog AllThingsDigital, said the deal “hit a series of snags” that ultimately buried it. But the source said Yahoo and its Asian partners could still strike another, taxable deal, though that remained to be seen.

Shares of Yahoo were down 6.5 percent to $15.07 in afternoon trade. The company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The deal would have seen the exchange of Yahoo’s slices of Alibaba and Yahoo Japan back to those companies, in return for unspecified assets.

Investors had hoped that Yahoo, after years of foot-dragging, would finally arrange for the sale of its Asian assets, considered among the most valuable parts of its portfolio.

AllThingsDigital cited one source as saying discussions “completely halted” after negotiators from Yahoo — whose chairman, Roy Bostock, is due to step down and whose chief executive, Scott Thompson, is barely a month into the job — changed tack on what they wanted from the deal. The report gave no details.

Analysts say Yahoo failed to take aggressive action in past years to reverse a decline in advertising revenue in the face of competition from Google Inc and Facebook, incensing shareholders who blamed the Yahoo board for waffling.

This month, Bostock announced he and three other directors would step down, following co-founder Jerry Yang out the door. Yang was excoriated for turning down a rich Microsoft Corp acquisition bid years before.

(By Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan; Editing by John Wallace)