Alibaba.com Corp, the closely held Chinese Internet company whose biggest shareholder is Yahoo! Inc, is ready for a possible purchase of the United States company's stake in it if the shares are offered.
"We are very well prepared," Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma said at the weekend in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang Province, where the company is based. Alibaba Chief Financial Officer Joseph Tsai is spending most of his time evaluating the situation, Ma said.
Yahoo said last month it may sell its Asian assets to boost investor value after signing an agreement that ended billionaire Carl Icahn's bid to oust the company's board and restart talks for Microsoft Corp to buy the California-based Web portal. Those Asian assets include a 39 percent stake in Alibaba, Bloomberg News reported.
"It would be very positive for Alibaba if they buy Yahoo's stake," Eric Wen, an analyst at MainFirst Bank AG in Hong Kong, said. "The biggest benefit of Alibaba's management having more control is that they'd also have more incentive to improve the company's performance," said Wen.
Yahoo swapped US$1 billion and its China unit in 2005 for the stake in Alibaba. Under their contract, Alibaba would have the right to buy Yahoo's stake if the US company were to be taken over. Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang is one of four directors on Alibaba's board.
Ma and Yang have spoken by telephone after Microsoft began its bid in February to acquire Yahoo and in those conversations "never talked about business," Ma said. The two talked courage, leadership and the need "to stay calm. It's tough being a CEO," he said.
Yahoo, which also owns 33.4 percent of Yahoo! Japan Inc, would most likely sell its stake in the Japanese Internet company to Softbank Corp should it decide to shed the asset, Kyodo News International reported July 25, citing Yahoo Japan President Masahiro Inoue.