Monday began the final act of Yahoo, as it announced the purchase by Verizon of its traditional business for $4.8 billion. The WSJ noted
The sale doesn’t include, among other things, Yahoo’s cash, its shares in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., its shares in Yahoo Japan, and Yahoo’s noncore patents, called the Excalibur portfolio. These assets will continue to be held by Yahoo, which will change its name at closing and become a registered, publicly traded investment company.Also excluded was the Excalibur patent portfolio (excluding patents purchased by Verizon) valued at $1 billion.
At the close of business Monday, Yahoo’s market cap was $36.4b, suggesting that these residual assets are worth about $32b — or 6.5x as much as Yahoo’s traditional businesses. (It seems misleading to call 13% of the company’s value “core”). TechCrunch values the Alibaba and Yahoo Japan shares at $31.2b and $8.3b so something doesn’t add up.
The bible of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Merc, says the market cap of Yahoo is about where it was before 2008 market crash. USA Today says that CEO Melissa Mayer had the best outcome (as measured by share price) of the six CEOs of Yahoo’s 20 years as a public company. Her 152% stock price increase made up about half of the stock value lost by (interim) CEO Jerry Yang, who held the reins during the heart of the stock market crash. The 152% increase compares to the 175% rise in the NASDAQ composite index during the same period.
Yang had a chance to sell the company to Microsoft in 2008 but refused to do so; in response, I said “Yahoo is toast.” As with other tech stocks, whether you made money over the past few years depends on whether you bought at the bottom or near the top.
Still, crediting Mayer with the stock price increase over the past four years seems somewhat generous, given that the “traditional” business continued to decline in value. Instead, (as predicted) the increase came from the two strategic investments by Yang in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.
Under the circumstances, things turned out better than feared. Over the last four years, Yahoo was no Google, Apple or Microsoft — let alone Facebook — but at least it is a positive outcome during a period when other mature tech stocks declined.
Mayer will be moving on, but hopefully (as with Verizon’s acquisition of AOL) many of the Yahoo employees will keep their jobs. The Yahoo company (if not the brand) will be disappearing, but given its waning interest, the backing of America’s most profitable (and second most valuable) firm will provide reasons for potential partners to take it seriously again.