China's Alibaba ponders Microsoft's Yahoo bid: report

NEW YORK Fri Feb 15, 2008 10:57pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Alibaba Group, the Chinese Internet company part-owned by Yahoo Inc, has hired advisers to evaluate issues related to a possible purchase of its U.S. partner by Microsoft Corp after the Chinese government said it would scrutinize the deal, the Wall Street Journal said Friday.

Alibaba executives believe Microsoft will succeed in its bid for Yahoo, and has hired lawyers and financial advisers to evaluate issues related to a possible deal -- key among them, how Alibaba could increase management's control in areas such as board composition and voting rights, the Journal said on its Website.

The plan by Alibaba management flows from concerns about how the Chinese government would view a combination of Microsoft and Yahoo if the software giant's bid for the U.S. Internet company is successful, the report said.

Microsoft on January 31 made an unsolicited offer for Yahoo -- then valued at $44.6 billion, or $31 a share -- which Yahoo's board this week rejected.

Alibaba has already been contacted by Chinese regulators seeking information on how it could be affected by a Microsoft purchase, the Journal said.

Yahoo owns 39 percent of Alibaba, which runs its Chinese operation as well as several other Web businesses, including Alibaba.com Ltd, China's largest listed Internet company.

The stake makes Yahoo the Chinese company's largest shareholder, but Alibaba's management -- led by founder Jack Ma -- has retained effective control over its operations.

Alibaba executives are concerned that a possible acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft, a much bigger company with a tradition of more hands-on management, could cast doubt on its independence, the Journal said.

Alibaba's four-member board currently includes one Yahoo representative, Chief Executive Jerry Yang.

Another major shareholder in Alibaba is Japan's Softbank Corp, which owns about 30 percent of the Chinese company. Softbank is also partners with Yahoo in Yahoo Japan Corp

(Reporting by Jui Chakravorty; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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