Microsoft could have had Yahoo! by now

6 May 2008

Defending his board’s negotiating tactics in the face of Microsoft’s decision to walk away from the US$46.6bn acquisition attempt, Yahoo! chief executive Jerry Yang has claimed the board would have been willing to accept a lower price than see the acquisition collapse.

On Saturday, Microsoft abandoned its pursuit of the internet portal firm after raising its bid from US$31 to US$33 a share, compared with the US$37 the board of Yahoo! wanted.

According to an article in this morning’s Financial Times, Yang is reported to have told the paper that Yahoo! was willing to do the transaction and Microsoft suddenly upped and walked away.

Following Microsoft’s withdrawal, Yahoo!’s shares fell 15pc but still remained above the levels before Microsoft’s initial bid earlier this year.

Yang told the paper the company would still be “open to a conversation” if Microsoft was willing to return to the negotiating table.

Analysts have expressed surprise that the two companies could not settle on a mid-way point between US$31 and US$37 a share.

In a letter to shareholders at the weekend, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO said: “Despite our best efforts, including raising our bid by roughly US$5bn, Yahoo! has not moved toward accepting our offer.

“After careful consideration, we believe the economics demanded by Yahoo! do not make sense for us, and it is in the best interests of Microsoft stockholders, employees and other stakeholders to withdraw our proposal,” said Ballmer.

He said Microsoft already has a plan to grow its web business through innovative new services and strategic transactions with other business partners.

While Yahoo! would have accelerated our strategy, I am confident that we can continue to move forward toward our goals,” Ballmer said.

“We are investing heavily in new tools and web experiences, we have dramatically improved our search performance and advertiser satisfaction, and we will continue to build our scale through organic growth and partnerships,” said Kevin Johnson, Microsoft president for platforms and services.

By John Kennedy