Yahoo likes location services, mum on Foursquare

LONDON Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:07pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Web company Yahoo said services that allow consumers to find local information based on the location of their mobile phone were "very interesting" but would not comment on reports it may buy industry player Foursquare.

Media reports have said Yahoo has been in discussions to acquire location-based services startup Foursquare for about $100 million, as rival Google threatens to extend its dominance in PC search to mobile devices.

"I won't comment on Foursquare directly but what I'll comment on is that local information, where someone is, what's in your neighborhood, that's very interesting," Chief Executive Carol Bartz told a news conference in London on Wednesday.

Allowing companies to target users with special offers, recommendations and other services depending on their location promises to open up the mobile market to advertisers, who have until now struggled to find value in mobile ads.

"We're always interested in acquisitions on any of these things," said Bartz, who took over in January 2009 from Jerry Yang after a year-long fight by Yahoo against a hostile takeover attempt by Microsoft.

Yahoo and Microsoft have since agreed a 10 year deal to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in expenses by shifting Web-indexing chores to Microsoft, while Yahoo focuses on improving the consumer search experience.

Yahoo is trying to become the favorite starting point for consumers on the Web, by helping users customize their browsing experience and populate their pages with premium content about subjects they care about.

It said on Wednesday it had won exclusive online rights in Britain to show five-minute highlights packages of English Premier League soccer for the next three seasons.

Bartz, who has been reorganizing the company and shedding assets since taking the helm, said Yahoo was neck and neck with Google in the number of mobile users it could reach.

It has done this mainly through deals with carriers and handset makers. Last week, it agreed to expand the role of its services on cellphones of the world's second-largest handset maker Samsung.

Bartz reiterated that Yahoo would regain some share this quarter in the search market. Yahoo stabilized its share last quarter after several quarters of losses and Bartz said last week it had hit bottom.

In March, Yahoo had 17 percent of the U.S. search market, the world's biggest, while Google had 65 percent, according to industry tracker comScore. Microsoft, which launched a revamped search engine, Bing, last year, had 12 percent.

Bartz said Yahoo had been distracted by a $300 million marketing blitz for Bing and had concentrated too much on revenue per search instead of volume of use.

"It took our eye off the ball for about four months. Now we're back in there doing what we do best, which is we know how to drive volume," she said.

(Editing by David Cowell and Andrew Callus)

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