As expected, Yahoo!'s board of directors is considering selling off the struggling company's Asian assets in order to raise money and stave off a death spiral. These assets include the well-regarded Alibaba Group in China as well as Yahoo!'s Japanese affiliate.
The sales could net as much as $17 billion total, according to reports, with about $12 billion of that coming from Alibaba and $5 billion from Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo! will likely keep a minority investment in Alibaba, since that business is growing so rapidly. In fact, if Yahoo! wasn't struggling, it would never consider selling off any stake in Alibaba now.
Yahoo!'s board will be meeting Thursday to consider this and other matters, including recent takeover and management-change proposals from Silver Lake and TPG Capital, each of which is separately backed by various industry partners. It's possible that one or both of these firms could emerge as minority investors in Yahoo!, even if the firm rejects broader takeover offers.
Whatever Yahoo! does, it will need to move quickly. Like other once-dominant tech giants that have stumbled in recent years (Research In Motion—RIM—being the most obvious example), it's not hard to imagine the company dwindling away to irrelevancy within the year. Yahoo! has lost numerous key executives and key advertising revenues as faster-moving rivals like Facebook and Google have taken over in the online space.
That said, Yahoo! still has a wildly popular website with more than 100 million active users a month. The trouble is monetizing that activity, something that Yahoo! has never done well. Frankly, decision-making isn't a strong point at the one-time online leader: Microsoft offered to buy the company outright in 2008 in a deal worth $45 billion. That deal valued Yahoo!'s stock at $31 a share—a 62 percent premium at the time. The deals Yahoo! is considering today are valued at roughly $15-$16 a share, or half the Microsoft offer.