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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide

May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang said Microsoft Corp. is still discussing potential partnerships with his company after walking away from a $47.5 billion takeover bid this month.

``They are discussing various other ideas and partnerships with us and we're listening,'' Yang said today at the D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, California. ``They clearly have some interest in Yahoo in some shape or form.''

Microsoft, the world's biggest software maker, had sought a Yahoo acquisition to bolster its Internet unit, which trails Google Inc. in the $41-billion-a-year market for online ads. Google has the dominant Internet search engine, while Yahoo and Microsoft rank second and third. Microsoft dropped its bid on May 3 after Yahoo demanded a higher price.

``We did not walk away from that proposal. Microsoft did,'' Yang said. ``I've always said we're willing to do a deal at the right terms.''

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, rose 16 cents to $27.16 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have climbed 17 percent this year. Redmond, Washington- based Microsoft, down 21 percent this year, dropped 26 cents to $28.18.

`Best Person'

Yang, who co-founded Yahoo in 1994, took the reins as CEO for the first time last year. Until then, he had served as ``Chief Yahoo,'' advising the company on its strategy.

``I know I don't have all the experience,'' he said today. ``I do think I'm the best person to lead Yahoo.''

Yahoo faces a proxy fight for control of its board from billionaire investor Carl Icahn. He proposed his own slate of directors this month and won support from John Paulson's Paulson & Co., BP Capital LLC Chairman T. Boone Pickens and investor Daniel Loeb, who have taken stakes in Yahoo.

All of Yahoo's directors are up for re-election at its next shareholder meeting. Last week the company delayed that meeting from July 3 until the end of the month.

Microsoft, whose online division was its only unprofitable unit last quarter, began pursuing a takeover of Yahoo on Jan. 31. It ended discussions after offering as much as $33 a share. Yahoo demanded $37.

The situation hasn't hurt the company, Yang said.

``The perception of us being a company in decline isn't accurate,'' he said. ``The process has pulled Yahoo together as a company. This is a real-life exercise of crisis management.''

Employee turnover hasn't changed, President Susan Decker said.

Google Deal

Yahoo also is in talks with Google to allow that company to sell ads alongside some of its Internet search results. The companies could arrange an outsourcing agreement that would pass U.S. Justice Department antitrust scrutiny, Stanford Group Co. analyst Paul Gallant said this month.

Google charges advertisers about 70 percent more per Internet search than Yahoo, according to Yahoo, citing data from last year. Google outsold Microsoft in Internet ads by a margin of 7-to-1 in Microsoft's latest fiscal year.

The online advertising market may almost double by 2010, Microsoft has said. The company announced a plan last week to give users cash back when they shop online with its Live.com search engine.

Google handled 61.6 percent of U.S. Web searches last month, more than Yahoo and Microsoft combined, according to research firm ComScore Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter J. Brennan in Carlsbad at pbrennan3@bloomberg.net

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GE CEO cites five potential bidders for appliances: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - General Electric Co (NYSE:GE - News) Chief Executive Jeff Immelt on Wednesday named five non-U.S. appliance manufacturers, including China's Haier, South Korea's LG Electronics, Sweden's Electrolux, Mexico's Controladora Mabe and Turkey's Arcelik, as potential bidders for the company's century-old appliances business.

The chief of the second-largest U.S. company by market capitalization said it was "obvious" who would be interested in the unit, which last year sold $7.2 billion worth of refrigerators, washing machines and other household appliances.

"The players have become somewhat obvious," Immelt told reporters in South Korea. "It is Haier in China, it is LG in Korea, it's Mabe in Mexico, it's Arcelik in Turkey."

In Beijing, he added another name to the list of suspects: "Whether LG or Haier or Electrolux or others participate remains to be seen."

None of those companies confirmed their interest.

After stunning investors in April with an unexpected drop in quarterly profit, GE said this month it would look to sell or spin off its appliances unit, saying the business was too focused on the United States.

Analysts and investors have estimated the business, which is No. 2 in the U.S. behind Whirlpool Corp (NYSE:WHR - News), could sell for $4 billion to $8 billion. Whirlpool is the world's largest appliance maker.

Immelt's comments could be an effort to see if there are other interested bidders who have not yet made themselves known to the company, said Peter Sorrentino, senior vice president and portfolio manager at Huntington Asset Advisors, which manages $6.5 billion in assets and holds GE shares.

"I wonder if he's not tapping tree trunks with a stick trying to figure out if there's bees in there," Sorrentino said.


Immelt's remarks came just a week after he told investors GE that the company was "seriously" considering spinning off the appliances unit.

"The appliance process is still very early on, and much still has to be decided," Immelt said in Beijing on Wednesday.

GE's well-known brand name could appeal to a foreign appliance manufacturer looking to build its profile in the United States while capitalizing on lower-cost production.

LG (066570.KS) said in a statement to the Korea Stock Exchange that it had not yet decided whether to bid for the GE unit.

A spokesman for Electrolux (Stockholm:ELUXB.ST - News), the world's No. 2 home appliances maker, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Arcelik (Istanbul:ARCLK.IS - News), Turkey's leading appliance maker.

Sources have described Haier as interested, but the company has declined official comment.


Immelt said LG was "clearly one of the leading candidates."

"They are a great company. They already have a presence in the U.S. Strategically, there are many things to be admired about a combination of LG and GE Appliances," he said.

Analysts queried what LG would get from buying the appliance unit, as its brand is already known in the United States.

Goodmorning Shinhan Securities analyst Steve Lee said, "I doubt LG Elec would be interested in pursuing this deal, since there's little the company can gain. There's a lot of overlap between the businesses with little premium potential for LG."

Lee said Immelt's comments could be aimed at drumming up interest from a small pool of potential candidates with deep-enough pockets to buy the business.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) and Italy's Indesit Co SpA (Milan:IND.MI - News) also have been touted as possible bidders, but neither has confirmed an interest.

GE shares were down 5 cents at $30.35 on the New York Stock Exchange. So far this year they have fallen 18 percent, with most of the drop coming in the wake of its first-quarter earnings shortfall.

By way of comparison, the Dow Jones industrial average (DJI:^DJI - News), of which GE is a component, is down 5.5 percent.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Park Jung-youn in Seoul, Asli Kandemir in Istanbul, Adam Cox in Stockholm and Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Keiron Henderson, Jonathan Hopfner, Ian Geoghegan and Alan Wheatley)

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