Yahoo CEO interested in social networks, search

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Mar 3, 2009 4:39pm EST

People walk past Yahoo! offices in Santa Monica, California, May 19, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

People walk past Yahoo! offices in Santa Monica, California, May 19, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc Chief Executive Carol Bartz said social network sites are a key area of interest for the Internet media company, even as it tries to figure out how to boost its Web search business.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Bartz suggested Yahoo might seek to partner with social networking companies rather than build its own products in this area.

"I do not believe we can invent the next Facebook," Bartz said.

"It is very clear we have to do that," she said in response to a question about her thoughts on the tremendous growth of social networks like privately held Facebook and Twitter.

Bartz repeated her philosophy that every business in Yahoo is up for examination as the company seeks to revive growth and better compete with Google Inc.

While she opened the door to negotiations with Microsoft Corp about a search partnership, she stressed the importance of search data to Yahoo's advertising customers.

"So, regardless of whether we manage it or somebody else manages it, that's important," said Bartz in some of her most significant comments about Yahoo's strategy since she replaced co-founder Jerry Yang as CEO in January.

If Yahoo and Microsoft decided to talk about a search deal, "We're going to negotiate as companies negotiate, privately." Bartz said.

The comments come a week after Bartz unveiled a major management reorganization. Investors are waiting to see if the new CEO can restart deal talks with Microsoft.

Last year, Microsoft made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Yahoo for $47.5 billion or $33 per share. The software company has said it is no longer interested in buying all of Yahoo but remains open to a search deal.

Bartz flagged Yahoo's Web-based email product, as well as its news and front-door businesses as "core" Yahoo properties. She also said the company needs to be "running very tight fiscally."

The CEO indicated that Yahoo is considering various strategies to strengthen its position in important markets, including mergers and acquisitions. She said the company could pursue acquisitions or partnerships to grow its footprint in Europe.

Yahoo's stock ended down 8 cents at $12.50 on the Nasdaq on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic, editing by Tiffany Wu)

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