The end might be near - for Mayer, and for Yahoo | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 03.02.2016
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The end might be near - for Mayer, and for Yahoo

After announcing huge losses and massive job cuts, tech giant Yahoo faces an uncertain future. DW takes a look at the company's troubles and efforts to rescue its struggling business.

The numbers are dismal: In the final quarter of 2015, Yahoo posted a steep loss of $4.43 billion (4.05 billion euros), as a result of the hefty write-downs stemming from the company's previous acquisitions.

In a bid to turn things around, the California-based firm announced it would slash 1,500 jobs and shut down offices in five major cities across the world.

"If the only thing you can come out and tell me is you're going to cut people to try to restore profitability through headcount, there's something huge missing there," Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst for Rosenblatt Securities in New York, told news agency Reuters.

However, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (pictured above) insisted she had a "strategic plan for growth" that would, in her words, "dramatically brighten our future and improve our competitiveness, and attractiveness to users, advertisers, and partners."

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Yahoo for sale

Mayer said Yahoo should concentrate on three core activities for its consumer business: search, mail, and Tumblr, a social blogging site Yahoo acquired in 2013 for a price tag of $1.1 billion.

Investors demand change

Tumblr is just one of several acquisitions Mayer pursued after she took the helm at Yahoo in 2012. But the company's attempt to generate income by attracting younger users has failed to materialize.

Tumblr missed its stated goal of $100 million in revenues last year, and Yahoo took a $230 million write down on the site.

The firm's dwindling fortunes in recent years have also affected its stock performance, with Yahoo's share value declining over 30 percent over the past year, stoking investors' concerns.

SpringOwl, a New York-based asset management firm and a shareholder, criticized Mayer for "poor capital allocation, bad strategic partnerships, out-of-control spending and a bloated workforce."

Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, believes Yahoo needs a new management. "I don't know what else. If they want to build confidence, someone needs to fall," Wieser told "Business Insider," a news website.

Willing to sell

For the moment, Yahoo's board has resisted calls for Mayer's resignation and said it is "committed to the turnaround efforts of the management team."

But board chairman Maynard Webb also said it was in the best interest of shareholders to explore "strategic alternatives."

The moment the word was out, Yahoo's share price jumped by 5 percent. Investors clearly interpreted it as a hint to look for a buyer. But who would be willing to buy the struggling company, and at what price?

As of today, Yahoo's stock is worth $27 billion. But that is mostly due to its stake in Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant. In Yahoo's latest financial report, that investment alone is valued even higher, at $31 billion, thus making up the lion's share of Yahoo's total assets of $45 billion.

A year ago, Yahoo had announced its intention to spin-off its stake in Alibaba as a separate listed company, but reversed its decision in December 2015.

Reversal of fortunes

Analyst Wieser estimates Yahoo's core business, without the investments in Asia, is worth around $3.4 billion. For this amount, a buyer would get the company that, Mayer claims, has "more than 1 billion monthly active users," but without a convincing strategy on how to grow its business.

Alibaba Logo China

Yahoo's stake in Alibaba is worth more than that of its core business

Founded in 1994, Yahoo's original name was "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web." The company became successful as a web portal, but has proved less successful than younger rivals such as Google and Facebook in turning the user base into advertising revenue.

Nine years ago, in early 2008, Yahoo's stock was valued at a bit under $30, similar to their current value.

But back then, there was still hope that the future was bright, at least in the mind of Steve Ballmer, then boss of Microsoft. Ballmer offered to buy Yahoo for $44 billion. Jerry Yang, Yahoo's co-founder and then CEO, declined the offer, believing his company was undervalued. It's a decision he might have come to regret.

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