A tale of two deals

By Heather Clancy
July 19, 2016

This is the deal that never ends. On Monday, Yahoo was set to take final bids on the auction of its “core” business, which means all or most of Yahoo, minus its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. The auction has dragged on all year, stalled, in the beginning, by CEO Marissa Mayer’s apparent reluctance to sell the company. (A sale would likely mean she’s out of a job.)

Mayer provided no updates on the sale process Monday during Yahoo’s quarterly earnings report. After 20 years as an independent public company, that earnings call may be Yahoo’s last. (Results were mixed: The company beat revenue expectations but missed on earnings per share and wrote down its $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr to next to nothing).

That Yahoo may no longer exist as an independent, publicly traded company comes as little surprise to anyone. Yahoo has been in decline for a decade. When Mayer took the job, everyone said, “If Marissa can’t do it, no one can.” Activist investors have decided no one can.

“Doing it” probably would have included a speedy, leak-free sales process. It’s telling that it has taken Yahoo six months and countless incremental media leaks for a deal that’ll likely end up in the $3 billion to $6 billion range.

Contrast that with Monday’s other big deal: SoftBank Group agreed to acquire ARM Holdings for $32 billion. That deal came together, leak-free, in just two weeks.

More relevant to Yahoo, the SoftBank-ARM deal finally puts to rest rumors that SoftBank, which, like Yahoo, owns significant stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba, would step in to save Yahoo. (It also kills rumors that SoftBank might buy Twitter.) But SoftBank was probably never going to do what everyone expected it to do.

The ARM deal is the kind of deal SoftBank’s enigmatic founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is known for: the exact opposite of what the world expects. Setting aside the company’s massive debt load, the deal makes sense, as Fortune’s David Meyer explained Monday. But the best part, for me, was the element of surprise. Nobody saw it coming.

Erin Griffith is a senior writer at Fortune. Reach her via email.


THE DOWNLOAD

IBM’s tough transition continues. The business technology giant did beat Wall Street’s expectations by reporting earnings per share of $2.95 compared with analysts’ projections of $2.89 per share. But IBM still has a long way to go to stabilize, even as it heavily invests in its so-called “strategic imperatives” of cloud computing, data analytics, and cybersecurity to offset declines in its legacy software business. More on its latest results.


BITS & BYTES

Netflix underdelivers. It was shooting for 2.5 million subscribers by the end of the quarter, but wound up with 1.7 million. The video company says it actually added as many new customers as it expected, but missed its forecast because of “churn” among account holders unhappy with price increases. (Fortune, New York Times)

Sprint shareholders aren’t too happy about the SoftBank-ARM union. The wireless carrier, which is 80% owned by the Japanese conglomerate, is still struggling to improve cash flow. The $32 billion takeover, however, means Sprint might not be able to count on those resources from SoftBank. (Fortune)

AT&T faces labor dispute. Shades of Verizon? More than 40,000 unionized workers in AT&T’s wireless business rejected a proposed benefits contract. The current one, which includes a no-strike clause, doesn’t expire until December. (Fortune)

Uber completes 2 billion rides. It reached its 1 billionth trip just six months ago. Plus, a bonus for business travelers: It’s now a lot easier to set up Uber corporate accounts within the Concur expense management system. (Fortune, Bloomberg)

Black boxes for self-driving cars? Germany plans to require it. (Reuters)

Ericsson will cut research and development investments. The struggling wireless equipment company recorded an 11% revenue decline for its second quarter. Its sales are slipping as the telecommunications industry postpones new network installations in preparation for the transition to 5G wireless services. (Bloomberg)

Google turns on the charm. It’s funding a huge array of cultural and educational programs in Europe—spending an estimated $450 million on “soft lobbying” as antitrust regulators close in. (New York Times)


WATCH FOR IT

EMC shareholders should green-light Dell deal. A special vote on the $60 billion offer—the largest in tech history and one that could mean lengthier payment terms for EMC’s component suppliers—is planned for Tuesday morning. On Monday, both EMC and its software company VMware company beat profit and revenue expectations for the second quarter. (Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg)

Microsoft will serve up year-end results. Analysts are expecting the software giant to report $22.1 billion in fourth-quarter revenue, which is relatively flat compared with a year ago. The numbers to watch will be from its cloud business, which grew about 7% last quarter. Two recent customer wins: dairy co-op Land O’ Lakes and aviation company Boeing. (MarketWatch, Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

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ONE MORE THING

What Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian have in common. Both are masterful social media storytellers. (Fortune)


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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