By Michele Chandler
A takeout seems inevitable for troubled Web portal Yahoo (YHOO), which is seeing its core business continue to weaken, according to a report on Monday by Mizuho. The Japanese bank handed Yahoo a price-target boost in anticipation of an acquisition, and Yahoo stock rose.
Mizuho raised its price target on Yahoo stock to 32 from 29, maintaining a neutral rating. Yahoo shares rose 1.3% to close at 31.79 in the stock market today.
Yahoo is down 28% over the past 12 months amid concerns about the company’s poor financial showing and its future, with some influential investors calling for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to resign.
Despite gains in its mobile business, Yahoo’s unique visitor count is sinking, down 7% year-over-year in January, after a 5% drop in December and a 6% fall in November, Mizuho analyst Neil Doshi said in Monday’s industry note, citing comScore data.
“In fact, January 2016 was the worst monthly decline in unique visitors we have ever seen for the company,” wrote Doshi, with total time spent on Yahoo sites dropping for the first time, down 4%.
“We expect Yahoo will be more vulnerable a year from now to losing users and ultimately ad dollars to larger platforms like Facebook (FB), Alphabet (GOOGL)-owned Google and high-profile startups like Snapchat and Pinterest,” Doshi said.
Will Yahoo Appoint Starboard Reps To Its Board?
With news reports of Yahoo’s board looking to add two Starboard Value executives to its board, and Yahoo saying it will hire outside bankers, “it seems like the board (and maybe or maybe not Ms. Mayer) … (is) getting more aggressive with Yahoo and M&A,” Doshi wrote. Verizon Communications’ $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL last year “can be viewed as a floor” price for any potential Yahoo buyout, he said.
Yahoo’s directors are close to offering at least two board seats to Starboard, an activist hedge fund, in order to avert a proxy fight, according to a report on Friday in the New York Post. Starboard founder Jeff Smith is looking to oust Mayer and force a sale of the company’s core Internet business.
Comcast (CMCSA), Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) “remain the leading candidates to acquire Yahoo,” said Doshi, adding that those companies could offer a higher price than private equity groups and that they have huge subscriber bases across Internet and TV and operate leading mobile services.
“Each of these companies could easily absorb Yahoo, and with clear synergies to their businesses,” Doshi said.
Scott Rostan, founder and CEO of Training The Street, a group teaching corporate valuation and merger and acquisition skills, agrees.
“AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are such large companies that this would be almost just like a little, bite-sized morsel that they’d be gobbling up,” Rostan told IBD. “The ability to do the transaction would be pretty easy for those companies. It would be more of a question of do they want (it) from a strategic standpoint.”
Time (TIME) could be another possible strategic suitor, Rostan said. “Imagine Yahoo Sports with Sports Illustrated somehow. Imagine Yahoo News with Time. Imagine Fortune with Yahoo Finance,” he said. “There could be some very interesting combinations that come out” of such a deal.
On Monday, Yahoo estimated that its restructuring effort would result in pretax charges of $64 million to $78 million, mostly in the current quarter. Of the total, $40 million to $48 million would be for severance pay and related cash expenditures, the company said in a regulatory filing on Friday.
Yahoo announced on Feb. 2 that it would reduce its workforce by 15% by the end of 2016 and close offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Milan.