Due to the attempts to buy or build a partnership with Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) investors can no longer keep track of the players without a score card. Overnight, word get out that Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) was talking to Yahoo! about putting AOL into a new, combined company. Then The New York Times reported that News Corp (NYSE:NWS) is in talks with Microsoft (NYSE:MSFT) about putting MySpace, MSN, and Yahoo! together.
The News Corp deal is by far the more complex. It puts together a social network, the MSN web portal, and Yahoo!, the No.2 search company. Managing such a far-flung collection of businesses would represent a significant logistical and marketing problem. However, it could drive a higher price for Yahoo!. Microsoft would gain control of the largest display advertising network in the world, would have the largest number of unique visitors controlled by any company, and rank closer to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in search. Having the MySpace social network might actually cause a set of troubles because operators of these businesses are finding it hard to discover ways to get large advertisers to use them. As collections of people who cannot be broken into simple categories they have been vexing to marketers.
It is very hard to determine how any of these new marriages creates more value that the $31 that Microsoft has offered for Yahoo!. At this point, at least, the value of another combination is ephemeral. The potential benefits are in the future and, therefore, are difficult to judge.
Shareholders of Yahoo! may have to decide if they want to elect for a bright dream of the future or cash on the table.
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 247wallst.com.