Yahoo swings to loss for Q4; focus shifts to Bartz, 2009

updated: Looking at the bigger picture, Yahoo's fourth-quarter financial results - which includes a swing to the loss column and a drop in revenue - really doesn't mean much. After all, that was then and this is now.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

updated: Looking at the bigger picture, Yahoo's fourth-quarter financial results - which includes a swing to the loss column and a drop in revenue - really doesn't mean much. After all, that was then and this is now.

In the fourth quarter, Jerry Yang was running the show, still taking a beating for passing on Microsoft's acquisition bid and still bruised by Google's government-induced change of heart for an ad deal. New CEO Carol Bartz, considered to be somewhat of a spitfire, is running the show these days. And she's looking forward, not back.

On to the formalities:

Yahoo reported a net loss of $303 million, or 22 cents per share, on net sales of $1.38 billion, a 2 percent drop from the $1.4 billion for the same quarter a year ago. Wall Street had been expecting income of 13 cents per share on sales of $1.37 billion. But the company also posted hundreds of millions of dollars in impairment and restructuring charges for the quarter, including those related to layoffs. If not for the charges, the company would have earned 17 cents per share, which would have beat Wall Street's estimates and been an increase over the $206 million, or 15 cents per share, earned for in the year-ago quarter.  (Statement)

For the full year, Yahoo reported net income of $424 million, or 29 cents per share, on sales of $7.2 billion. In 2007, the company reported income of $660 million, or 47 cents per share, on sales of $6.97 billion.

On a call with analysts, Bartz said there are "many exciting things on the road map in 2009 that we look forward to sharing" later. Still, she acknowledged that Yahoo is a complex company that has "problems and issues to address" and noted that it's too early to offer more details.

Before taking questions, she addressed two key questions that she keeps hearing about - 1) whether she joined Yahoo to sell it and 2) whether she plans to immediately sell the search business. She was quick to note that she didn't take the job to sell the company, but instead to work to make it stronger. In regard to the search business, she said that she "did not arrive here with preconceived notions about anything," adding that search is a "very valuable" part of the business.

So does that mean that she'd be willing to sell to Microsoft, especially given news reports that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock recently met in New York? Bartz' quick answer was a no-comment on "press reports that come from nowhere."

Also see:

Yahoo’s Bartz to earn $1M plus bonuses, options Ya-hoooo: There’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Bartz! Yahoo confirms Bartz in charge; Can she save Yahoo? The time is now for a Microsoft-Yahoo search deal

There had been some speculation that Bartz might use the call to announce a strategic plan for the company but that didn't happen. Likewise, she didn't address any details about a management shakeup or further cuts, which were also topics of speculation recently.

Asked about a timeline for her 2009 roadmap and the sharing of details, Bartz said she didn't want to commit to a specific number of days but did pledge to be more open - or "externally focused" -  with shareholders and analysts than the company has been in the past.

She also said that everything is on the table, answering a question about whether she's open to discussions with companies mentioned in the past - notably Time Warner and Microsoft. She said she is open to anything that "makes sense long term for the company and creates shareholder value," and that includes possibly divesting of properties, if need be.

But she was also quick to note that Yahoo overall strong properties and "really doesn't deserve everyone trying to pick it and pull it apart." Specifically, Yahoo Mail, Finance, News and Sports are top-ranked in their categories, she said. "This is not a company that needs to be pulled apart and left for the chickens," (And with a chuckle, she added that the "left for the chickens" line was her Wisconsin coming through.)

The company offered adjusted revenue guidance of $1.525 billion to $1.725 billion for the first quarter of 2009 but declined to give full-year guidance, given the "economic uncertainty" ahead.

Shares of Yahoo were up slightly in regular trading, closing at $11.34. Shares were climbing in after-hours trading, gaining more than 3 percent.

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