Yahoo meets low earnings expectations

Markets Reuters

Yahoo

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Yahoo, which is both fielding offers from potential buyers and searching for a new chief executive, posted slight decreases in net revenue and profit, but those declines were not unexpected.

Profit in the third-quarter totaled $293 million, or 23 cents per share, compared with net income of $396 million, or $29 per share, in the year-ago period. Yahoo's net revenue -- which excludes fees paid to partner websites -- was $1.07 billion, compared with $1.12 billion at this time last year, and in line with Wall Street expectations.

Shares of Yahoo, which fired former CEO Carol Bartz in early September before the end of the third quarter, gained roughly 3 percent to $15.98 in after hours trading on Tuesday.

Not everyone was pleased by the results, however.

"What I really want to see is that they can stop the declining revenue. If we got a little revenue beat, that would be really nice. You can always squeeze more out of earnings," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

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Yahoo has been in a state of chaos since the departure of Bartz. The company retained investment banking firm Allen & Co to help conduct a "strategic review" of its business and is reportedly working with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a new CEO. Interim-CEO Tim Morse declined to provide an update on either the strategic review or the CEO search process. Of the latter, he said only that "the board process was underway."

A number of potential buyers have expressed interest in a deal with Yahoo. Private equity firms Silver Lake Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Blackstone Group, and KKR are among those likely to get a look at the limited financial data Yahoo's advisers are circulating.

Strategic buyers, including AOL, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Ltd, which already has a partnership with Yahoo, and Microsoft Corp are also interested. AOL Inc boss Tim Armstrong is said to be pushing investors for a Yahoo deal, while Microsoft, which offered to acquire Yahoo for $47.5 billion a few years ago, is weighing making another run, either by itself or in partnership with others.

Despite its struggles, Yahoo continues to be a marquee destination, with page views to the company's media properties up 9 percent in the quarter. The flip side, however, is that search queries were up a paltry 1 percent, while search page views fell 3 percent.

The Sunnyvale, Ca-based Internet icon, which has struggled to revive its online advertising business, said it agreed to extend the revenue per search guarantee in its deal with Microsoft through March 2013. The extension applies only to the United States and Canada, however.

Yahoo said it remains fully committed to the success of the search alliance and the extension represents an "important sign of that commitment."

Earlier this year, however, Yahoo said the partnership was taking longer than expected to pay off due to technical imperfections in the search advertising system. As a result, Yahoo said it did not expect revenue per search to return to pre-Microsoft levels until the end of the year.

Morse also declined to provide an update on when revenue per search would return to pre-deal levels.

"Having extended the RPS guarantee, there's no real reason to be talking about when we think the line crosses," Morse said.

Morse did say that premium display advertising sales were on target for the third quarter, but that non-premium ad sales has a bit of an "underrun." Morse added that, on a year-over-year basis, premium display ads sales were up less than 5 percent and non-premium ad sales were down a similar amount.

For the fourth-quarter, Yahoo projected net revenue of $1.125 billion to $1.235 billion, compared with $1.22 billion expected by analysts.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Andre Grenon)

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