In Another Surprise Twist, AOL-Yahoo Deal Said to Be Close At Hand

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twoheaded.pngThings are moving fast in the Yahoo-Microsoft drama. All the different forces are aligning for an endgame. The latest twist: The WSJ is reporting that Yahoo is close to signing a deal to combine with AOL.

This at the same time that Yahoo is doing a limited test to place Google ads in its search results. Meanwhile, News Corp, which Yahoo once hoped would be its white knight, is said to be turning on Yahoo and talking to Microsoft about joining its bid. Obviously a lot of balls are up in the air right now, and anything is possible.

Here is how the AOL-Yahoo combination is shaping up, according to the WSJ:

Under the terms being discussed, Time Warner would fold its AOL unit into Yahoo and make a cash investment in return for about 20% of the combined entity, the people said. The deal, which wouldn’t include AOL’s dial-up access business, would value AOL at about $10 billion. As part of the deal, Yahoo would use the Time Warner cash and additional funds to buy back several billion dollars worth of its own stock at a price somewhere in the middle of the range between $30 and $40 a share

Tellingly, that $10 billion valuation is half of what AOL’s business was pegged at when Google invested $1 billion for its 5 percent stake in AOL a little over two years ago. (But that does not include the dial-up business). What we are witnessing is all sorts of contortions on both sides to make the numbers work. We’ve believed all along that Time Warner will put an offer on the table, but it will be difficult to make it pencil out, especially if an AOL-Yahoo combo is up against a three-way Microsoft-MySpace-Yahoo deal.

Each of these potential deals would create integration nightmares, but a three-way tie between Microsoft, MySpace, and Yahoo would create an entity with so much traffic and advertising inventory that it might not matter. The chances of such a complicated deal going through, though, are small. The most likely outcome is still Microsoft buying Yahoo, and this is all just fodder for the negotiations.

Which Would Be A Stronger Yahoo Entity?

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Started: April 9, 2008

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