Yahoo May Be Poised to Exit Asia with Alibaba Disposition
Even as Yahoo looks for a successor to fired CEO Carol Bartz, the ailing search prince may be looking to shed more corporate assets: Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan.
According to several news reports, Yahoo's board of directors is considering selling off most of the company's holdings in the Alibaba Group of China and its Japanese affiliate. Yahoo would sell the assets back to their majority owners. Softbank is the controlling owner of Yahoo Japan. Yahoo's board is reportedly reviewing the transaction.
According to Forbes, the deal is a complicated transaction with high stakes: Yahoo could reap $17 billion from the sale of the Asia assets. Yahoo paid $1 billion to buy into Alibaba in 2005. On the news, Yahoo's stock price reached $15.99 on a 5.82 percent rise.
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, noted that the so-called Asian assets are the most valuable ones that Yahoo has at the moment, according to the market. "Yahoo has had a troubled relationship with Jack Ma [the founder and chairman of Alibaba] and Alibaba so I wouldn't be surprised to see it go," Sterling said. "Ma also either wants out of Yahoo entirely or wants to control the entire company."
Alibaba Breaks Through
If Yahoo sheds its Asia assets, it would help focus the company and make shareholders happy. Many of Yahoo's stakeholders have cried for the sale of Alibaba, in which Yahoo owns a 40 percent stake. Yahoo owns a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.
But where Yahoo has struggled, Alibaba.com has performed. Alibaba's revenue was up 11 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2011 despite a depressed global economy and the decline in manufacturing. Revenue from Alibaba.com's international marketplace also increased by 11.8 percent. And revenue from its China marketplace increased 13.9 percent.
"We remain committed to our world's largest B2B customer base and will continue to evolve our business to better serve them with a number of initiatives designed to improve supplier quality and the buyer experience," said Jonathan Lu, CEO of Alibaba.com in the earnings report. During the third quarter, Alibaba.com attracted nearly 4 million new users, for a total of 72.8 million registered users, and now hosts more than 360,000 new storefronts, for a total of 9.6 million.
Yahoo Gets More Social
Meanwhile, Yahoo is forging ahead in the U.S. On Wednesday, Yahoo extended the Facebook integration launched at the f8 developers conference in September. The news activity feature is now available on another 26 Yahoo sites, including omg!, Yahoo TV, Yahoo Movies, and Yahoo Games.
A new social feature, Notifications, has also launched in the U.S., alerting people to social conversations and activity across Yahoo. Yahoo is hoping to bring a deeply personalized, social news experience to its visitors, and reports more than 12 million people have opted in since launch.
"In just three months, we've seen traffic from Facebook to Yahoo! News in the U.S. increase by 300 percent," said Blake Irving, chief product officer, Yahoo, "so we're excited to extend this social activation to more of our worldwide content sites."