Verizon Communications Inc. is nearing a deal to buy Yahoo! Inc., beating out rival bidders for the iconic web pioneer, people familiar with the matter said.
Verizon is discussing a price close to $5 billion for Yahoo’s core internet business, one of the people said and the deal doesn’t include the company’s patents at this stage. While other assets including Yahoo’s real estate were also on the block, it could not immediately be learned if they are part of the deal.
The companies may be ready to announce the deal in the coming days, but the agreement hasn’t been finalized and may still fall apart, the people said, asking not to be named because the deliberations are private. The two companies are in one-on-one discussions, one of the people said.
“The buyer that could make the most out of these assets has apparently won,” said Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics LLC. “No one could get more out of Yahoo’s businesses than Verizon. ”
A representative for Verizon declined to comment. A representative for Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo couldn’t immediately be reached outside of regular business hours.
An agreement would end a months-long bidding process for Yahoo, which began earlier this year when Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer -- after keeping investors at bay for years -- said the company would explore strategic alternatives, including selling its core assets that once made it the gateway to the internet.
After more than three years at the helm without delivering on a turnaround strategy, Mayer finally bowed to rising shareholder ire after the collapse of a plan to spin off Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in a way that would minimize the tax impact for investors. Alibaba, the largest e-commerce provider in China, emerged as the most valuable piece of Yahoo, and investors were seeking a way to realize some of those gains. After U.S. regulators failed to give prior approval for the transaction’s tax status, Yahoo was forced to jettison the plan.
AT&T Inc. and Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert, as well as buyout firms Vector Capital Management and TPG were also active in the bidding process until the end.
Verizon sees a complimentary set of businesses that could find a home alongside its AOL properties.
With the wireless industry maturing, Verizon has been buying up internet and advertising technology companies, including AOL, and presenting itself as the best bet to take on Google and Facebook Inc. in mobile advertising. Yahoo has millions of users, a collection of websites including Flickr, Tumblr and Yahoo Finance and Sports and some useful digital-ad tech like Flurry and BrightRoll. Together with AOL, the new Yahoo under Verizon may have a better chance of competing in a digital ad market dominated by two big players.
“This will expand Verizon’s advertising base by 200 million more visitors,” Entner said. “This will be a large driver of the advertising engine. They also can collect a whole lot more user data to make the ads more relevant. They will be in more places with better ads.”
Yahoo shares were up 0.5 percent at 10:00 a.m. to $39.06. They have gained 17.5 percent so far this year.
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