What are Yahoo shareholders doing today? They're hitting reload on their browsers every second looking for some word on what Carl Icahn plans to do with his reported 50 million-share stake. Don't bother looking to the market for clues, as it has none. After rallying hard yesterday, the stock ticked up this morning, before dipping into the red, and now it's up again. Ostensibly, the question is whether Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is still interested in buying Yahoo; supposedly, Icahn has received no indication that it is. Microsoft is up too, so not what you'd expect if it was all "game on." But does it make sense that Icahn would spend $1 billion on Yahoo shares and then look into the question of whether Microsoft would buy them for a higher price? Could Icahn have designs on Yahoo that aren't tied to affecting a sale? Given the company's performance and its glacial pace of avoiding oncoming glaciers, this is the kind of company he might go after anyway.
-- Damaged goods: It's said that Microsoft didn't go the hostile route because of the damage it would do to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). So, would Icahn launching a proxy fight as a, er, proxy for Microsoft work any better. MarketWatch quotes analyst George Askew of Stifel Nicolaus & Company saying not: "...you may win the battle but what you ultimately win will be so damaged that it wasn't worth fighting for. We believe this is why Microsoft didn't pursue a proxy battle, and we don't think the software giant's view will change with Carl Icahn doing the dirty work."
-- The *Google* card?: Quoted in the same article Jefferies & Co. analyst Youssef Squali suggests Yahoo could once again bring up its
poison pill ad deal with Google (NSDQ: GOOG), should Icahn and Microsoft make another advance. Maybe. But how many times can you keep bluffing all-in before you get called down? The fact that Yahoo had nothing to announced post-Microsoft and Google execs have already cooled on it, certainly reduces the potency of this move.
By Joseph Weisenthal