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Yahoo panel to study 'strategic' options

[SAN FRANCISCO] Yahoo said Friday it had named a committee to study the company's "strategic alternatives," moving a step closer toward a breakup or sale of the troubled Internet pioneer.

The California tech group had already said it was reviewing other options even as it carries out a major restructuring, but the formation of an independent panel moves that process forward.

The term "strategic alternatives" is often used when a company is considering a merger or sale.

Yahoo said it had hired Goldman Sachs & Co., JP Morgan and PJT Partners Inc. as its financial advisors, and the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP for legal issues.

"The strategic review committee and its advisors are establishing a process for outreach to and engagement with potentially interested strategic and financial parties," Yahoo said in a statement.

Some reports have said Yahoo could sell its "core" Internet business and that potential suitors may include telecom giant Verizon, which recently acquired AOL, or Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

A sale would leave Yahoo's multibillion-dollar holdings in Chinese Internet firm Alibaba in a separate entity.

Yahoo has been working on a plan to separate the two units.

Maynard Webb, Yahoo's board chairman, said the board "is thoroughly committed to exploring strategic alternatives while simultaneously supporting management and the employees in their implementation of Yahoo's strategic plan." Yahoo said earlier this month it was cutting 15 percent of its workforce and narrowing its focus, which will mean closing some digital media operations.

Although Yahoo is one of the best-known names on the Internet and is used by around one billion people, it has fallen behind Google in Internet search and has been steadily losing ground in online advertising.

It reported a loss of $4.43 billion in the final three months of last year, due mostly to lowering the value of its US, Canada, Europe, Latin America and Tumblr units.

Some activist shareholders have called for the ouster of the management team led by chief executive Marissa Mayer.

In Friday's statement, Mayer said that "separating our Alibaba stake from Yahoo's operating business is essential to maximizing value for our shareholders. " She added that in addition to the so-called "reverse spin," there may be "strategic alternatives that could help us achieve the separation, while strengthening our business."