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Yahoo profit surges on Alibaba divestment, mobile

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 06:47
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Yahoo said on Tuesday its quarterly profit surged with its sale of shares in Chinese Internet powerhouse Alibaba, and also saw improving results from its mobile Internet initiatives - PHOTO: REUTERS

[SAN FRANCISCO] Yahoo said on Tuesday its quarterly profit surged with its sale of shares in Chinese Internet powerhouse Alibaba, and also saw improving results from its mobile Internet initiatives.

Net profit jumped to US$6.8 billion, which included US$6.3 billion from its Alibaba shares. But profits excluding one-time items were stronger than expected, and pumped up Yahoo shares by 2.7 per cent in after-hours trade.

Revenue from operations inched up a percent to US$1.15 billion, according to third quarter results welcomed by chief executive Marissa Mayer, who is under pressure to show the company can flourish apart from its lucrative investment in Alibaba.

"We had a good, solid third quarter," Ms Mayer said in a release.

"We achieved this revenue growth through strong growth in our new areas of investment - mobile, social, native and video - despite industry headwinds in some of our large, legacy businesses." More than $200 million in revenue came from mobile devices, with gross revenue from ads served up on devices such as smartphones or tablet computers is projected to bring in more than $1.2 billion for Yahoo this year, according to Mayer.

"We have invested deeply in mobile and we are seeing those investments pay off," Ms Mayer said.

"Not only are our mobile products attracting praise and engagement from users and industry awards, they are generating meaningful revenue for Yahoo." Making money from Internet users accessing websites or services online using mobile devices is seen as crucial for Internet firms as lifestyles increasingly center on smartphones or tablets.

Ms Mayer was expected to use an earnings conference call on Tuesday to lay out how she planned to use money pumped into Yahoo's coffers from its early investment in Alibaba, and to address pressure from an activist investment firm's Yahoo to explore a tie-up with online rival AOL.

Starboard Value LP, which said it had acquired a "significant" ownership interest in the company, said last month in an open letter to Ms Mayer that bringing together the two early Internet giants could lead to "up to US$1 billion of synergies" and lift the value of Yahoo as it divests a large portion of its stake in Chinese online group Alibaba.

Silicon Valley-based Yahoo acknowledged it received the letter from Starboard and said that it intends to act in best interests of the company.

Starboard's move came amid intense scrutiny over Yahoo, which like AOL is pushing heavily in digital media as part of reorganisation efforts.

Starboard said that the value of Yahoo's core business as measured by its share price is virtually nil, when excluding the valuation of its holdings in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

Starboard's analysis said Yahoo's Alibaba stake is worth US$34 billion and its holdings in Yahoo Japan valued at US$7.8 billion.

Starboard said Yahoo should end its "aggressive acquisition strategy" which has spent some US$1.3 billion, cut costs and find ways to get value from its overseas holdings with minimal tax consequences.

Yahoo said its cash on hand has now jumped to over US$12 billion, but that it will pay some US$3.3 billion in taxes on the gains from its Alibaba holdings. AFP