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AT&T said to be interested in buying Yahoo Internet business

🕐 3 min read

(Bloomberg) — AT&T Inc. has made a bid for Yahoo Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, and is a contender to acquire the Sunnyvale, California-based company’s core internet business.

The telecom giant had previously decided against making an offer, people familiar with the matter said in April. AT&T kept one foot in the process through its stake in digital advertising business YP Holdings LLC., which had proposed a merger with a subsidiary spun out of Yahoo’s core business. However, YP is no longer pursuing such a transaction, said one of the people, all of whom asked not to be identified as the matter is private.

Shares in Yahoo fell 5 percent Wednesday to close at $35.59 in New York. AT&T was little changed at $38.62.

AT&T’s continued presence in the bidding process pits it against rival Verizon Communications Inc., which has long been considered a frontrunner to buy Yahoo. While Verizon remains a favorite to acquire Yahoo, it didn’t submit one of the highest first-round bids, two of the people said.

Representatives for AT&T, Verizon, Yahoo and YP declined to comment.

Dallas-based AT&T, which has a market capitalization of about $237 billion, can easily afford to compete in an auction. The company could pair Yahoo’s algorithm-based advertising technology with its mobile video service, which it launched after last year’s $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV. AT&T also owns a joint venture with the Chernin Group called Otter Media, which invests in digital media.

Earlier this month AT&T ended a partnership with Yahoo, handing a web-hosting contract for its mobile and desktop customer portal to Synacor Inc., a internet-services company with just $110 million in revenue.

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AT&T may also be interested in Yahoo to help it compete with Verizon, which bought AOL Inc. last year and now has advertising technology and media properties that are similar to those owned by Yahoo. Verizon — which has made no secret of its desire to buy Yahoo — may still be a more likely suitor than AT&T, two of the people said, given the synergies with the AOL business.

Yahoo’s financial advisers are spending extra time considering proposals from companies and private equity firms that made higher bids, but don’t know Yahoo’s business as well, one of the people said. The company received more than 10 initial offers ranging from about $4 billion to $8 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.

The sales process is likely to continue for another two to three weeks, another person said. Bidders have already met with Yahoo’s management to get due diligence information, another person said. Yahoo’s sales process is “well along the way,” Chief Financial Officer Ken Goldman said Tuesday at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston.

Yahoo, under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, started a review of the company’s options in February after pressure from investors and a failed turnaround. TPG, a group led by Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert — and backed by Warren Buffett — as well as a team financed by Bain Capital and Vista Equity Partners have all submitted bids for Yahoo, according to people familiar with the matter. John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. has expressed interest in Yahoo but isn’t considered a likely finalist, one of the people said.

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With assistance from Scott Moritz and Brian Womack.

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