The possibility has been in the air for the past week that Yahoo might be considering selling its core business, and board of directors meetings last week were focusing on the prospects. If CNBC’s David Faber is right in a report he just broke, the Internet giant has made its decision: It will not move forward with its planned spinoff of its stake in China e-commerce giant Alibaba and instead look for a deal.
Estimates for the value of the core business (mostly media) range from about $2 billion-$4 billion, with most of Yahoo’s enterprise value owing to its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.
As Yahoo has attempted to reinvent itself under CEO Marissa Mayer, it has been helped by its 15% stake in Alibaba and 35% holding in Yahoo Japan. After Alibaba went public in the U.S. last year, Mayer hoped to help Yahoo shareholders at the end of this year — when a year-long lock-up period expired — by putting the stock into a separate, publicly traded company. Execs hoped that the scheme would enable investors to benefit from the 384 million Alibaba shares without paying taxes on the capital gains.
But the IRS said in September that it would not guarantee that the deal would be tax-free. Indeed, the agency and Treasury Department said that month that they might look askance at spinoffs designed to avoid taxes.
As a result, activist investor Jeffrey Smith’s Starboard Value led the charge for Yahoo to scrap the spinoff — and look instead at selling the core company, leaving Yahoo itself with just the Alibaba and Yahoo Japan holdings. The two stock positions accounted for 94% of Yahoo’s $31.2 billion enterprise value, he said in a letter to the company three weeks ago. That suggested Yahoo’s core business was only worth about $2 billion.
CNBC reports that an announcement from Yahoo could come as soon as Wednesday, with sources saying it could take a year to evaluate the business’ sale potential.