Hey, Marissa: How About Spreading Around That Alibaba Windfall?

by Marc Bastow | September 25, 2013 4:19 pm

Dear Ms. Mayer,

I’m Marc Bastow, a Yahoo (YHOO[1]) shareholder as of January. I bought into YHOO back in January[2] — partly because I believed the company had untapped potential in the online world, but mostly because I felt your charisma and marketing vision would carry Yahoo toward a better future (and stock price).

For the record, I’m thrilled so far. YHOO is up nearly 60% since I bought in, and my doubting colleague Jeff Reeves[3] just shakes his head every time I bring it up.

But with my chips still on the table, I’d like to ask you a favor: When the Alibaba IPO[4] goes live and your 24% stake translates into billions of dollars … do you mind spreading some of that around via a special dividend?

Hear me out:

I realize that a lot of the momentum in Yahoo stock[5] has been built on Alibaba’s success, so once it completes its IPO, you won’t have that regular influx from the Chinese e-commerce business. You know, the portion you get from quarters like Alibaba’s Q1, in which it raised $1.38 billion in revenue and $668 million in profit.

Still, estimates say the IPO could raise as much as $15 billion, which would make your stake worth up to $3.6 billion — which would give you room to both thank shareholders now and plan for the future.

I know you’re probably itching to put some of that to work in acquisitions, but you’ve already made 15 deals since May alone — including a $1.1 billion deal for Tumblr — so it’d probably be prudent to start digesting those deals instead.

I know you might be thinking about stock buybacks, but I’m not a huge fan. Yes, you can play the earnings game by slashing shares and thus EPS, but let’s face it — companies often buy at the wrong time anyway[6]. If that money’s going to be mismanaged, I’d rather it be by my own hand once I’ve cashed the dividend check.

I’m not advocating something quite on the scale of what AOL (AOL[7]) did with the proceeds of its patent sale to Microsoft (MSFT[8]) — in which AOL dumped the whole $1.1 billion between dividends and buybacks. But even spending roughly a third of that money ($1 billion) would result in a $1 per share special dividend, which would be an extra 3% boost to shareholders’ annual return.

Again — you’ve done plenty to filter the cash through buybacks and M&A. But sometimes, shareholders want something a little more direct.


Marc Bastow, Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com, who still was long YHOO as of this writing.

  1. YHOO: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=YHOO
  2. bought into YHOO back in January: https://investorplace.com/2013/01/5-reasons-why-i-just-bought-yahoo-yhoo-msft-aol-amzn-goog/
  3. doubting colleague Jeff Reeves: https://investorplace.com/2012/05/social-media-screwups-illustrate-why-yahoo-is-doomed/
  4. Alibaba IPO: https://investorplace.com/ipo-playbook/alibaba-ipo-yahoo-yhoo/
  5. momentum in Yahoo stock: https://investorplace.com/2013/05/yahoos-fire-will-stay-lit-the-ifs-ands-buts/
  6. companies often buy at the wrong time anyway: https://investorplace.com/2012/12/dont-celebrate-a-rush-into-to-stock-buybacks/
  7. AOL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AOL
  8. MSFT: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=MSFT

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