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Daily Mail owner considering Yahoo bid

BBC News BBC News 11/04/2016
Yahoo logo © Getty Images Yahoo logo

The owner of the Daily Mail newspaper is in talks with other parties about a bid for the struggling US internet company Yahoo.

A spokesman said discussions were "at a very early stage" and there was no certainty a deal would take place.

The Wall Street Journal, where it was first reported, said the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) was discussing an offer with private equity firms.

Yahoo is under pressure from shareholders to turn itself around.

The activist hedge fund investor Starboard Value recently called for the replacement of the entire board at the loss-making company.

The spokesman for Daily Mail said: "Given the success of DailyMail.com and Elite Daily we have been in discussions with a number of parties who are potential bidders.

"Discussions are at a very early stage and there is no certainty that any transaction will take place."

Deadline

DMGT shares were flat in early trading at 695p after initially falling 0.4%. The company is valued at £2.34bn.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said that the potential bid could take two forms.

In one scenario, a private-equity partner would acquire Yahoo's core web business with the Mail taking over the news and media properties.

In another scenario, the private-equity firm would acquire Yahoo's core web business and merge its media and news properties with the Mail's online operations.

Yahoo's media assets include Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports and a range of digital magazines.

The US company has set a deadline for 18 April for interested parties to submit their offers.

Time Inc is also reported to be weighing a bid together with a private equity firm.

'Long suffering'

Earlier this year, Yahoo said it would cut 15% of its workforce as part of chief executive Marissa Mayer's "aggressive" plan to return the company to profit.

Richard Dunbar, of Aberdeen Asset Management, told the BBC: "[Yahoo] has struggled against Facebook and Google. Its sales have halved over the past 10 years. In contrast Mail Online has been unbelievably successful - the most visited English language news website in the world.

"It will be interesting to see whether the terms of this deal are acceptable to what have been long suffering shareholders at Yahoo."

Yahoo's shares have fallen by about 30% since the end of 2014.

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

It's one of the best known brands on the internet, a billion people use it each month and it is home to much-loved web properties such as Flickr and Tumblr. But Yahoo is also a byword for decline, a Silicon Valley giant that has been stumbling and struggling for years. It's the very opposite of a hot tech business - so why on earth would the Daily Mail be interested?

One obvious point is that if the price is right, any property can be attractive. After all, another ailing web giant, AOL, worth over $200bn in the late 1990s, was sold last year to the telecoms giant Verizon for just $4.4bn. And the Mail is going about this cautiously, talking to private equity firms which might be interested in Yahoo rather than going it alone.

While the Mail Online website has been phenomenally successful in building a global audience, digital advertising revenues have not risen fast enough to offset the decline in circulation and print advertising. Acquiring Yahoo's huge, if declining, audience could help it to accelerate its transformation into a profitable digital news business.

Mail Online saw its US ad revenues soar 38% last year - but at £18m they still look puny compared with Yahoo's. But there's a salutary lesson in Yahoo's own recent history. Its purchase of the blogging site Tumblr has so far failed to deliver the advertising revenues it hoped for from a sparky younger audience.

Buying a new business is one thing, getting its staff to share your vision and values quite another.

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