Reality bites at Yahoo

July 14, 2008, 11:26 PM UTC

Is it just me, or is the most interesting and amusing bit of the most recent Yahoo-Microsoft news that Yahoo (YHOO) remains willing to sell to Microsoft (MSFT) for $33 per share?

A short review of the facts. Some time while Terry Semel still was CEO of Yahoo, Microsoft offered to buy the company in the neighborhood of $40 per share.  Yahoo said no. In January, when Yahoo’s shares had sunk to around $19 on continued poor performance and a lack of belief by investors that its turnaround plan will work, Microsoft offered to pay $31 a share. Microsoft’s own investors thought so little of the prospects for success of that bid that they hammered Microsoft’s stock, bringing down the value of the offer for Yahoo to the neighborhood of $29. Yahoo’s response? We think the company is worth $37 per share, and we’re not interested in selling for less.

Since then, there’ve been more twists and turns in this story than a daytime soap. Yahoo indicated it would accept $33 but Microsoft didn’t trust the sincerity of management. Yahoo ran to Google (GOOG) for a deal that would partially outsource search advertising to Google and add cash to Yahoo’s coffers. But that arrangement is neither a total sale of its search operation to Microsoft nor a total money-saving outsourcing to Google. In the meantime, Microsoft offered a search purchase as well as an investment in Yahoo at a $35-per-share valuation. Yahoo rejected that.

That leaves us today, with Yahoo saying it would sell for $33, a 6% increase over Microsoft’s initial offer. That’s a price it easily could have gotten in February but one that Microsoft doesn’t appear willing to pay today.

Today’s Yahoo’s shares trade for less than $23.