Yahoo’s quarterly earnings, due out after the close of markets today in the US, come at a time of almost unprecedented scrutiny for its already much-scrutinized CEO, Marissa Mayer.
Investors are agitating for change. Some even want a merger with AOL. And thanks to the journalist Nicholas Carlson’s new book about Yahoo, fresh details about Mayer’s personality, management style and overarching philosophy (paywall) are doing the rounds.
Yahoo shares are up strongly since Mayer took the reins in 2012, but that’s mainly due to its stake in the booming Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. That stake is now down to about 15% following Alibaba’s IPO, in which Yahoo was obliged to sell some of its shares.
Yet that 15% is still worth about $40 billion in theory, which is nearly as much as Yahoo’s overall market value of $46 billion. Some investors want Yahoo to liquidate the remaining stake (and the company’s stake in Yahoo Japan), and return proceeds to shareholders.
The challenge would be to do so without incurring a giant tax bill. Mayer is expected to provide an update today on her plans for the Alibaba shares, the Wall Street Journal reports. But while that’s the main issue investors will be looking at, signs of progress at Yahoo’s actual business would be a bonus too. eMarketer estimates that Yahoo will surpass Twitter as the third-biggest mobile advertising company in the US this year, behind only Google and Facebook. If they’re right, it would be a boost for Mayer, since it would be a sign that she’s succeeding in taking Yahoo to mobile, the platform on which internet users spend a growing share of their time.