It looks like investors still are willing to wait on the Marissa Mayer turnaround plan — even in the face of glaring evidence against it.
Yahoo’s (YHOO) second-quarter report was lackluster or scary, depending on who you asked. But Wall Street’s response shows investors clearly don’t care, with YHOO shares up 7% as of midday Wednesday, putting the stock’s year-to-date returns around 85%.
One year into the job, there’s little evidence of tangible results from Mayer’s tinkering.
Q2 net revenues slipped from $1.081 billion to $1.071 billion amid an 11% drop in the display ad business and a mere 5% increase in search — both divisions continue to feel the intense pressure from companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG). Worse, the weakness is expected to continue into the third quarter — YHOO forecast revenues in a range of $1.06 billion to $1.1 billion, shy of the consensus view of $1.12 billion.
Yahoo’s profits would appear to be a positive — YHOO earned 35 cents per share, up from the year-ago period’s 30 cents and in line with analyst forecasts.
However, Yahoo snagged much of its profits from its equity stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan — the former a Chinese e-commerce powerhouse, and the latter a part of a venture partnership with Softbank (SFTBF). Alibaba also presents future promise should it stage what’s expected to be a huge public offering, which many expect to come within the next six months and fetch a $100 billion-plus valuation.
As for Yahoo’s core business … well, it could take some time.
Of course, needing time in tech is the kiss of death in most instances, but not all. Consider the fix job Steve Jobs undertook at Apple (AAPL) — it wasn’t until about five years after his return to the company in 1996 that he launched the iPod and started AAPL back on the road to relevance (and eventual domination).
Granted, the differences between Steve Jobs and Marissa Mayer are myriad, but they share some qualities specific to the task at hand.
For one, Mayer has incredible charisma. While making Yahoo “cool” again doesn’t necessarily put more money in the company’s pockets, it’s a task many would’ve thought impossible, and it at least keeps the company from outright obscurity.
More importantly, Mayer has an obsessive focus both on building products (a webpage isn’t a phone, but it’s still a product of a sort) and surrounding herself with talented personnel. YHOO is now launching a new product roughly every week, and the company has undergone major revamps of its homepage, email service and Flickr. And all have been done with eyes on what’s ahead — specifically, mobile technology.
Meanwhile, Mayer has been relentless about dumping products that don’t move the needle. Since last fall, she has closed down more than 30 products and major features. Note that while Apple rocked the world, it did so with one very streamlined product lineup.
The numbers still don’t back it up, and might not for still more quarters down the road. But Mayer does have the CEO attribute set — focus, energy and an innovative spirit — that’s necessary to dig a tech dinosaur out of the ground.
Given all this, don’t be too surprised that Wall Street is so unusually patient.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.