M & A Law Prof Blog

Editor: Brian JM Quinn
Boston College Law School

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bust-up candidates not just an 80s thing

Many of the cases we study in my M&A course and in Corporations stem from the mid-1980s when the "bust-up deal" was the order of the day.  It's often surprising to law students that a corporation might be "worth more dead than alive" (gratuitous reference to Other People's Money).  The bust-up might well be a thing of the 1980s and not really on too many agendas these days, but that doesn't mean there aren't real candidates.  

Take for example Yahoo!  It's core business is pretty much worthless:

Yahoo! Inc.’s market value has doubled since Marissa Mayer took over as chief executive officer, which you might think would be cause for celebration. But more than all of those gains can be attributed to the gangbuster growth of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Yahoo Japan Corp., two thriving companies that are part-owned by Yahoo. In other words, the implied market value of the rest of Yahoo has collapsed during Mayer’s tenure, and might even be negative.

Alibaba is valued at about $153 billion, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Yahoo itself is worth about $39 billion as of this writing and this includes its ownership of about 24 percent of Alibaba. If you subtract that out you are left with a company that’s worth just a little more than $2 billion -- less than AOL Inc., Groupon Inc., or Zynga Inc.

Yahoo also has a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, a publicly traded company now valued at about $32.3 billion. Subtract out Yahoo’s stake and this means that investors seem to value Yahoo’s own business at less than nothing -- not what you would expect from a profitable enterprise.

All those people, doing all that purple work...for nothing.  That can't be true.  There must be some value left if one were to liquidate Yahoo's positions in both Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.  Of course, all that value will remain trapped.  If the hostile bid were really still a viable option, one would think that Yahoo would be an obvious choice.  In any event, for young lawyers and law students looking for an example of what potential bust-up targets look like, there's one. 



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