Yahoo’s day of reckoning may have finally arrived.
Final bids in Yahoo’s auction of its core assets are due Monday, the New York Times reports, citing sources briefed on the auction process. The faded Internet firm’s board of directors is expected to make a decision soon after. Yahoo (YHOO) reports its quarterly results on Monday after the markets close, and there has been some speculation that company management could even announce the auction winner at that time, according to the New York Post.
Yahoo declined to confirm the auction deadline. “In order to maintain the integrity of the process, we won’t be commenting until we’ve reached an outcome,” a company spokeswoman said via email.
The bidders list is reportedly down to two telecom behemoths—AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ)—several private equity firms, and a consortium led by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who is being backed by Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett.
The bidders are not all considering the same assets, and while earlier bids were reportedly in the $3.5 billion to $5 billion range, some estimate the sale price could rise as high as $6 billion, depending on whether it includes intellectual property and other assets. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Yahoo had hired boutique investment bank Black Stone IP to sell about 3,000 of its patents. Their worth was estimated to be up to $4 billion, but a report published this week said that 44% of the patents had “high severity” problems and that nearly all of them had weaknesses that could cause them to be invalidated.
According to the Post, the Madison Avenue advertising industry is rooting for Verizon, as the combination of Yahoo with Verizon unit AOL, which it acquired last year for $4.4 billion, would give it the size to compete with Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB), and with its presence in mobile communications and TV (via Fios) it could offer additional consumer data.
“They can place unique identifiers that have a tremendous amount of information on where you surf all the demographics of the family,” an advertising executive told the Post.
The Post reports that the three remaining candidates are Verizon, the Buffett-backed group, and Texas-based private equity firm TPG Capital, whose chairman, David Bonderman, sites on the boards of Airbnb, Uber, and Ryanair.
No matter who wins the bidding, it will be a big comedown for CEO Marissa Mayer, the former Google executive hired in 2012 to turn Yahoo around. Following several failed efforts to redefine the company and give it new momentum, and after an attempted sale of its share in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba that was thwarted by tax concerns, she was forced to accept an auction earlier this year.
Following the asset sale, the original Yahoo will be little more than a stock holding company, with a 15% share of Alibaba (BABA), which is worth about $30 billion, and its 35.5% stake in Yahoo Japan (YAHOF), which has a face value of some $8.7 billion.
This story has been updated with comment from Yahoo.