Ballmer says Microsoft no longer interested in Yahoo!

November 7, 2008

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has finally made a definitive statement about the future chances of Microsoft purchasing Yahoo! by saying those chances are nil. The Wall Street Journal reports that Ballmer said the following during an Australian visit on Friday: “We made an offer, we made another offer, and it was clear that Yahoo didn’t want to sell the business to us and we moved on.”

Speaking at a business luncheon in Sydney, Australia, the Journal reports, Ballmer continued, “We are not interested in going back and re-looking at an acquisition. I don’t know why they would be either, frankly. They turned us down at $33 a share.” This remark was apparently a reference to Yahoo!’s current share price, which has dipped below $13 on the New York Stock Exchange.

It was less than a year ago that Microsoft offered to pay $31 a share, then $33, in a deal that would have garnered Yahoo! $44.6 billion. Based upon today’s trading so far, Yahoo! is worth just a bit over $16 billion today. There had been some recent rumors that another offer might be imminent because of the huge drop in Yahoo’s value since the economy started downhill recently.

On the other hand, Yahoo! CEO Jerry Wang seemed to be saying earlier in the week that his company would be a good deal for Microsoft. Speaking during an interview at a Web 2.0 summit, Yang said, “To this day, I would say the best thing for Microsoft is to buy Yahoo.” It would seem that the two CEOs have swapped opinions at some time over the last eight months.

Of course, no one in business should ever close all of the doors at once. Later in his remarks today, Ballmer said,  “I’m sure there are still some opportunities for some kind of partnership around search, but I think acquisition is a thing of the past. Everybody needs a good competitor, and we just want the other guys in this business to have a good competitor that they have to think about every day.”

It is anybody’s guess what that last sentence means. Microsoft’s reputation for nurturing competition is not exactly a good one, having recently been chased through a series of courts in many nations for it’s allegedly monopolistic practices. Maybe the jury can still be considered at least partially out on both issues.

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