The Lookout

Yahoo! and Alibaba reach $7 billion deal

The Lookout

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In this file photo, a man walks past a sign showing the Yahoo! and Alibaba.com logos. (AP)

(AP)

Yahoo! announced today it has reached an agreement with Alibaba Group on a staged and comprehensive plan to unlock the Yahoo's investment in Alibaba.

The plan, which was announced in a release, includes a transaction this year where Alibaba will purchase up to one-half of Yahoo's current stake in the top Chinese e-commerce company. The transaction  could generate more than $7 billion in proceeds should Alibaba buy the full amount.

Both companies also set up a framework where Yahoo! can monetize the remaining interest in the Chinese company in stages. First at the time of an initial public offering in the future, Alibaba will be required to either repurchase one-half of Yahoo's remaining stake at the IPO price or allow Yahoo! to sell those shares at the IPO. Also, following an Alibaba IPO, Yahoo! has the option to sell the remaining share at any time it chooses.

"Today's agreement provides clarity for our shareholders on a substantial component of Yahoo!'s value and reaffirms the significance of our relationship with Alibaba," said Ross Levinsohn, Interim CEO of Yahoo! said in the release.  "We look forward to continued collaboration with the Alibaba team on business initiatives as we explore joint opportunities for growth and benefit from Alibaba's future.  I want to thank Jack Ma, Joe Tsai and the Alibaba team, as well as Tim Morse, Michael Callahan and our Yahoo! team for their dedication in achieving this successful outcome."

"This transaction opens a new chapter in our relationship with Yahoo!," said Jack Ma, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group stated in the media release.  "I look forward to working with Ross Levinsohn and the Yahoo! team as Alibaba builds China's leading e-commerce company.  Yahoo!'s global audience reach will provide attractive partnership opportunities for Alibaba to explore markets outside of China.  The transaction will establish a balanced ownership structure that enables Alibaba to take our business to the next level as a public company in the future."

The announcement comes a week after Scott Thompson departed as CEO of Yahoo! and Levinsohn was named interim CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based digital media company. Thompson left the company after inaccuracies were revealed in an official bio.

"The cash from a transaction will help Yahoo as it grapples with the challenges in its business," Jim Tang, a technology analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities in Shanghai, said before the announcement in a Bloomberg article. "While Alibaba is the clear leader in the Chinese e-commerce market, it's been difficult for Yahoo to cash out of its investment, since Alibaba is not publicly traded."

"The sale of half of Yahoo's Alibaba stake would represent the partial achievement of a goal that has eluded Yahoo for years," Clayton Moran, an analyst at Benchmark Co., said in an e-mailed statement that was also reported by Bloomberg. "It appeases shareholders, may give employee morale a much-needed boost, and starts CEO Ross Levinsohn's term with a win."

A Wall Street Journal story included this reaction:  "Yahoo Inc. struck a deal late Sunday to sell up to half of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. back to the Chinese company for $7.1 billion, finally succeeding after multiple attempts to wind down a seven-year relationship that had recently soured."

Yahoo! stock rose 3.7 percent to $15.42 at the close in New York  on May 18. The shares  have fallen 4.4 percent this year, Bloomberg reported.

Senior media reporter Dylan Stableford contributed to this report.

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