Tension may be growing between Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Alibaba Group — but don’t look for Yahoo to sell its 44 percent stake in the company any time soon or to offload its other Asian investments for that matter. During an interview on CNBC, CEO Carol Bartz described the Alibaba stake as a “way to profit” from the Chinese internet market without directly operating there.
“Frankly, when I got here, (I thought), ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re not in China, everybody has to be in China,'” she said. “But we all know China is a tough market to be in, especially in media. The Chinese government is much more interested in media companies being Chinese … So I view it frankly as a very good investment for the future.” As for its 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, Bartz said that Yahoo Japan adds revenue and net income to the company. “That’s not an investment, that’s actually a partnership,” she said.
In the past, Yahoo has openly floated the idea that it might sell its Asian holdings. And earlier this year the company did in fact sell its 10 percent stake in Korean auction site Gmarket to eBay (NSDQ: EBAY).
At the company’s annual meeting in June, however, Bartz had implied that it was unlikely that Yahoo would unload its Alibaba stake in the short term. But she gave a much more muted explanation, saying that “selling it in this market is probably not the best idea in the world.” Alibaba controls Yahoo China and there have been reports that Bartz is less than pleased with Alibaba’s handling of the site.
Other highlights from Bartz’s interview:
— Asked whether she would have sold Yahoo to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) if she had been CEO a year and a half ago, Bartz said, “Well sure. You think I’m stupid? I mean let me see, 15, 34. Yeah, I think so.” Microsoft had offered as much as $33 a share for Yahoo. The company’s stock is now trading at around $15.
— There’s been rampant criticism that Bartz has sold around $2 million of her Yahoo holdings since taking over as CEO eight months ago. But Bartz said she “didn’t sell anything.” Asked whether she had reaquired the shares, she said “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” (Separately, SearchEngineWorld notes that the sale represents a very small fraction of her overall Yahoo holdings).