Today, hundreds of Microsoft shareholders converged on Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center to hear the state of their union. Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates talked Azure while shareholder votes for board seats were tallied. Yahoo wasn’t a subject on the annual meeting’s agenda, but the prospect of a new Microsoft bid for the struggling web giant was on the minds of many.
The very first question of the open Q&A put it out there: “What’s happening with Yahoo?” Is Microsoft still interested? Steve Ballmer answered assuredly. They’re not. Despite persistent rumors, despite the disintegration of Yahoo and Google’s search pact, despite Jerry Yang’s pending withdrawal, that ship has sailed.
About 41 minutes into the meeting (webcast), repeating what he has said many times over since the talks between the two companies officially terminated, Microsoft’s CEO said, “Let me be clear… We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo. I’ve said that a bunch of times but somehow people have gotten confused nonetheless. We did our best. We thought we had something that made sense. It didn’t make sense to them. We’ve moved on.”
Confusion hasn’t been the issue. The words have been clear but some have taken to interpreting Ballmer’s repeated stance as little more than posturing. They believe at the right price, or subject to management changes at Yahoo, Microsoft will revisit buyout discussions and open its checkbook readily. Ballmer’s public indifference and denials, they believe, is just aimed at keeping merger speculators from inflating Yahoo’s stock price.
Ballmer is adamant he means what he’s said. In case there’s confusion, he even said it twice, “acquisition discussions are finished.” Logical as some of the posturing speculation is, I’m inclined to believe him.
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