Murdoch, Microsoft Consider Joint Bid; Google Ad Pact


April 10, Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL are closing in on a deal to combine their Internet operations, a move aimed at thwarting Microsoft Corp.'s effort to acquire Yahoo, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

But Microsoft is recrafting its assault plan by talking with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, about mounting a joint bid for Yahoo, people familiar with the matter said. Microsoft and News Corp. have yet to reach an agreement on joining forces but one person apprised of the plan described the discussions as serious. Such a deal would combine three of the biggest Internet properties: News Corp.'s MySpace, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo.

Negotiating Leverage

The AOL-Yahoo deal under consideration would include the repurchase of some Yahoo shares at a price above Microsoft's offer. Taken together with a possible search advertising pact with Google Inc., the plan could give Yahoo an alternative to a Microsoft takeover -- although many analysts and investors believe Microsoft will ultimately win out. At the least, Yahoo's efforts could give it more leverage to negotiate a higher price from Microsoft.

Under the terms being discussed between Yahoo and Time Warner, the latter would fold its AOL unit into Yahoo and make a cash investment in return for about 20% of the combined entity, people familiar with the situation said. The deal, which wouldn't include AOL's dial-up access business, would value AOL at about $10 billion. As part of the deal, Yahoo would use the Time Warner cash and additional funds to buy back several billion dollars worth of its own stock at a price somewhere in the middle of the range between $30 and $40 a share, the people said.

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