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Microsoft Reportedly Suiting Up for Proxy Battle for Yahoo!

Microsoft and Yahoo! are not negotiating a deal behind the scenes according to Bill Gates

Microsoft and Yahoo! are not negotiating a deal behind the scenes, according to what Bill Gates told the AP yesterday morning, 18 days after Microsoft made its rejected $31-a-share offer for the company.
 
And it appears that Microsoft, whose stock has been down 12.8% since publicizing the offer, isn’t prepared to up the ante – at least not yet – not at the cost of $1.4 billion for every dollar of sweetener – nosiree.
 
“We sent them a letter and said we think that’s a fair offer,” the news service quotes Gates as saying. “There’s nothing that’s gone on other than us stating that we think it’s a fair offer. They should take a hard look at it.”
 
But in case Yahoo!, which reportedly wants $40 a share, needs a persuader to come to the table and deal, “people briefed on the matter” told the New York Times this morning that Microsoft is going to start a proxy fight for Yahoo this week.
 
It will nominate a slate of directors to replace Yahoo!’s by March 13, the drop-dead date, and then seek to get them seated. The Times points out that all of the members of Yahoo’s board are up for nomination because it doesn’t have a staggered board.
 
Such a maneuver would only cost Microsoft an estimated $20 million-$30 million for lawyers and such – that and perhaps the good will of some of the Yahoo! people it’s trying to buy to level the playing field with Google.
 
If Microsoft is forced into a proxy fight it’ll add months to any takeover, which is already going take a long time because of the regulatory gauntlet it’s going to have to run.
 
And if Microsoft loses the proxy fight, well, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that Yahoo’s bid-up-on-anticipation stock price will crater.
 
Of course there are those who think that if Microsoft does buy Yahoo, it’ll wind up writing off the whole investment in a few years.
 
Microsoft’s stock was up a point or so this morning on the news.
 

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Yahoo! News Desk 02/19/08 12:28:24 PM EST

'There's nothing that's gone on other than us stating that we think it's a fair offer. They should take a hard look at it.'