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Ballmer Has 'Nothing To Say' on Yahoo Deal

Leaks from unnamed sources to The Wall Street Journal constitute the only "news" so far this week about Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid for Yahoo.

Leaks from unnamed sources to the Wall Street Journal constitute the only "news" so far this week about Microsoft's unsolicited takeover bid for Yahoo. Even Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly told a May 1 "town hall" meeting of Microsoft employees that "I got nothing to say today" about Yahoo's nonresponse to Microsoft's offer.

However, Ballmer did confirm at that meeting that Windows XP won't be licensed for new PCs after June 30, contrary to reports that quoted him suggesting XP licensing might be extended in response to customer feedback.

Microsoft apparently is willing to raise its bid for Yahoo by offering Microsoft common stock at $33 per share, according to an unnamed source in a WSJ story published today. If true, the offer would improve on Microsoft's original offer of $31 per share.

Microsoft's deal involves a 50/50 stock-and-cash offer to acquire Yahoo, originally valued at $44.6 billion. Yahoo's management has repeatedly rebuffed Microsoft's offer ever since it was first publicly disclosed on January 31, saying that the bid undervalues Yahoo.

Microsoft's board members met yesterday to address how to proceed on the acquisition, according to the WSJ's account. However, no final decision was reached, the newspaper said today.

Yahoo did not publicly respond to an April 26 deadline to meet on Microsoft's terms. That deadline was set by Ballmer in a letter to Yahoo's board. He threatened a proxy fight on the board if that precondition wasn't met.

Microsoft reportedly has considered setting aside $1.5 billion to keep Yahoo employees from leaving following a successful acquisition bid, according to a Reuters report published yesterday. Yahoo apparently is using the possibility of employee drop-offs as a way to rebuff Microsoft. For instance, a class action lawsuit against Yahoo by some shareholders charges that Yahoo has tried to ward off the acquisition deal by establishing overly generous severance payments to its employees.

The lawsuit calls the severance plan "improper," estimating that it will "cost shareholders between $1 billion and $3 billion, which represents between 2-7% of the total value of Microsoft's offer," according to an announcement issued by the BLB&G law firm handling the case.

Microsoft plans to disclose further details on its Yahoo acquisition bid sometime this week, according to Chris Liddell, Microsoft's senior vice president and chief financial officer. Options could include Microsoft bowing out of the deal, or a hostile takeover attempt.

A recent survey of 32 Wall Street analysts conducted by Reuters favored the idea that Microsoft's bid will turn hostile in the coming days.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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