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It has been a rough couple of weeks for Yahoo; (NSDQ: YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz has come under sharp criticism for her handling of the company’s relationship with China’s Alibaba Group, and just today an analyst pointed out that the stock market was valuing Yahoo’s core business at “less than nothing,” according to a Tech Trader Daily. During a question and answer session at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bartz tried to deflect some of the criticism. Highlights, below.
— Alibaba: Bartz said that Yahoo’s investment in Alibaba “allows us to be in the China market without operating in the China market.” “It’s an investment, we’re not running the company,” she said. Bartz dismissed some of the recent coverage of the two companies’ relationships as “commotion.” But she did acknowledge that the value of the company’s Asian assets “tower over the value of Yahoo Inc.” “Our job as a management team is really to get the growth story back,” she said.
— E-mail: Yahoo Mail is still twice as large as number two player Hotmail, but Bartz said engagement with the product had fallen. She blamed consumers who are increasingly sending short messages via Facebook instead of via e-mail and also a “pretty old” product. The company’s revamped e-mail product, which Yahoo unveiled last week, will roll out in the next three weeks.
— Turnover: Asked about the spate of recent executive departures, Bartz said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to my assistant and said, ‘Do you know who this person is,’ and they’re about six layers down.” As for significant departures (and there have been plenty of those) Bartz said it was natural because of Yahoo’s strong position in the industry that some executives would be hired away. “There are a few more we’re going to lose,” she said.
— Acquisitions: Bartz said that there was “nobody to buy” that would contribute significantly to revenue, so “you need to build your own business” instead. Bartz volunteered that Twitter “doesn’t make money, they’re way over-priced.” She said, however, that the company would continue to be “opportunistic” with acquisitions.