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Yahoo! Has Two Choices: Merger or Sale

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong's reported meeting with top shareholders to push the idea of a merger with Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) begs the question of whether it's the best option for Yahoo!, which is undergoing a review of ways to unlock shareholder value.

According to the report by Reuters on Thursday, Armstrong's pitch was that merger of AOL and Yahoo! could drive $1 billion to $1.5 billion in cost savings through synergies between data centers and news sites.

Armstrong is trying to build shareholder support for a merger with Yahoo! as an alternative to being a standalone company, Reuters said. Similarly, to put in place the foundation for stronger growth - or shareholder returns, Yahoo has been exploring asset sales, acquisitions and even a sale of the company.

Yahoo's been reportedly looking to a spin its Asian assets that include a 40% stake in Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba and a 35% stake in Yahoo Japan, sell itself outright, undergo a management buyout, or as recently as yesterday--take itself private in an LBO with private equity firms, company founders or Asian partners.

Yesterday's reports about Armstrong fan previous speculation of a Yahoo-AOL merger. On Sept. 9, Bloomberg reported Armstrong was in talks with private equity firms and investment bank Allen & Co. to assess a merger with Yahoo! after it fired its CEO Carol Bartz. According to the report, Yahoo!, with a market cap of roughly $20 billion would buy smaller AOL with a market cap of $1.45 billion and leave its CEO Tim Armstrong on to run the combined media, search and dial up Internet conglomerate.

Allen & Co. is also advising Yahoo on a strategic review of ways to boost shareholder value.

Though the two struggling internet giants have different revenue bases, both company's face similar challenges, chiefly replacing declining revenue at traditional businesses with ad and display revenue. The question is whether it's in Yahoo's best interest to double down on its display bet with an AOL purchase when neither has seen particularly strong results.
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