Yahoo says report of 20 percent in layoffs "misleading"

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc called a media report it was planning to cut one-fifth of its workforce “misleading and inaccurate,” but the Web portal stopped short of ruling out any layoffs.

Yahoo Inc. offices, housing its Search Marketing Group, are pictured in Burbank, California, October 14, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Yahoo, which is trying to revive revenue growth amid competition from search giant Google and fast-growing social networking services like Facebook, said in an emailed statement on Thursday it is “always evaluating expenses to align with the company’s financial goals.”

“However, a 20 percent reduction in Yahoo’s workforce across the board is misleading and inaccurate,” the statement said.

A report on the technology blog TechCrunch on Friday, citing two anonymous sources, said that Yahoo was planning to lay off 20 percent of its staff. TechCrunch said it is sticking by its story based on its sources.

It comes days after widespread market and industry speculation that Google is hiking salaries by 10 percent to try and prevent its talent from defecting to hot start-ups and rival companies.

After Yahoo’s statement came out, influential blog AllThingsDigital cited sources as saying that, while Yahoo is indeed preparing layoffs in December, they will amount to something like 10 percent of the product organization under Chief Product Officer Blake Irving.

Investors have pressured Yahoo, the leader in display advertising, and Chief Executive Carol Bartz to deliver growth and revive a moribund stock price. Speculation has surfaced that private equity firms are exploring a buyout of the $20 billion company.

Yahoo is one of the world’s most popular online destinations, and still the No. 2 U.S. search engine behind Google. But the Web portal is facing increasing competition from Facebook as well as from Google, and hemorrhaging senior executives to rivals.

Several of Yahoo’s executives have left in recent months, including vice president of media Jimmy Pitaro, head of mobile for North America David Ko and U.S. head Hilary Schneider, who announced plans in September to leave the company.

One Yahoo employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said employees were “nervous” amid management changes and a reports about private equity firms exploring a takeover.

“We are all just sort of worried,” the employee said.

While the employee had not heard rumors of layoffs prior to Thursday’s media reports, the person said staffers expect major changes in the company’s structure, in the wake of the recent management turnover.

Yahoo recently hired Ross Levinsohn, the former head of News Corp’s online operations, to replace Schneider.

Yahoo finished the third quarter with 14,100 employees, compared with 13,200 employees at the same time a year ago. Its shares held steady at $16.80 in after-hours trade.

Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Carol Bishopric