Will MS Make Another Play for Yahoo?

It’s been less than two weeks since Web search and content giant Yahoo announced a strategic reevaluation of its businesses and dumped its CEO Carol Bartz but, already, rumors are flying that Microsoft is internally discussing making another run at buying some or all of the company’s assets.

This time, however, a published report says that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is interested in Yahoo’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) trove of branded content sites, such as Yahoo News and Yahoo Finance, to beef up its own MSN content sites.

Business Insider reported Friday that a “source close to Microsoft’s MSN portal” said Yahoo’s content sites are “definitely” of interest to the software titan should they become available.

“If it comes into play, then at least their [Yahoo’s] U.S. media business is a pretty interesting asset,” Business Insider’s report said.

Microsoft tried unsuccessfully to mount a hostile takeover of Yahoo in early 2007 but ultimately was rebuffed.

After a change of CEOs at Yahoo, however, the two companies came to a licensing agreement in mid-2009 whereby Microsoft now provides its Bing search engine infrastructure underlying Yahoo searches in return for some of the advertising revenue those sites generate.

Despite the search-for-advertising deal, though, Yahoo senior management has been unable to shake the company out of its doldrums, prompting rumors with the firing of Bartz that all or part of the firm may be put up for sale.

Additionally, while Microsoft has been focused on expanding its market share in search, that has been a hard slog to date, and at least some Microsoft executives have apparently come to the conclusion that adding Yahoo’s content to MSN’s could be just what the doctor ordered.

“Lately, says our source, there has been a realization from [Microsoft] management that ‘MSN is a critical component of helping Bing win’,” Business Insider said.

In the meantime, at least so far, the principals are staying mum.

A Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com that the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation.”

A spokesperson for Yahoo did not return a call for comment in time for publication.


Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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