Yahoo’s Sale Process Overshadows Its Earnings In A Big Way

YahooQ12016_2Yahoo reported earnings on Tuesday. Details are below – but that’s hardly what people care about now.

The real question is: Who’s going to buy it?

Verizon’s the clear frontrunner, but there also a few upstarts. One such is a joint investment group that includes big names like former Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn and Mediaocean CEO Bill Wise, who sold his company to private equity firm Vista Equity Partners in June.

The execs are part of a bid for Yahoo’s core business that includes Mediaocean’s owner Vista and Bain Capital, according to Recode.

Bids were due on Monday ahead of Yahoo’s earnings.

Speaking of earnings, a quick summary:

Yahoo’s overall revenue declined in the first quarter of 2016 to $1.087 billion from around $1.2 billion at this time last year, although the company did slightly beat Wall Street’s estimates.

Mobile revenue, the “M” in CEO (for now) Marissa Mayer’s beloved Mavens – mobile, video, native, social – was a bright spot, up from $234 million to $260 million.

A dull spot was desktop revenue, which fell off a cliff in Q1, shedding $100 million in a precipitous drop from $873 million in Q1 2015 to $774 million. Mavens revenue overall increased modestly from $365 million to $390 million, a 7% increase YoY.

Mobile may be growing, but it’s far from the growth engine Mayer bet the farm on when she first took the reins. Mayer continues to bang the Mavens drum, though, calling it “critical in counterbalancing legacy business declines.”

Yahoo’s stated goal is to bring in $1.8 billion in Mavens revenue in 2016, a number Mayer said the company is on track to hit.

But Yahoo’s story is no longer about revenue and growth. It’s a story about contraction – layoffs, closing digital magazines, sunsetting services. It speaks to the challenge that Yahoo and other companies that came of age in the desktop era now face in reinventing themselves for the mobile era.

Mayer shared scant details about what the ultimate sales process will look like, shutting down questions about the timeline other than to note Yahoo will be following a “well-defined and aggressive calendar.”

The board and strategic review committee are still contemplating so-called “strategic alternatives” around Yahoo’s future – including a reverse spin to handle Yahoo’s Alibaba stake, which is still nominally on the table – but the next step is really about the sale, which Mayer acknowledged.

“Obviously,” she said, “the larger volume of work is being done around the process of the possible sale.”

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