) -- Silver Lake and a consortium of investors have bid for a minority stake in



, valuing the company at roughly $16.60 a share, according to


, which cited unnamed sources.

Those sources also said that TPG Capital, another private-equity firm rumored to be participating in the Yahoo! sweepstakes, may have submitted a higher bid than Silver Lake. Meanwhile, sources also told


that Asian partner


is watching the situation closely and is still considering buying back Yahoo!'s stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant.

On Tuesday,


reported that private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners was interested in buying the U.S. operations of



and may do a leveraged buyout of Yahoo!'s U.S. business, which could be worth $5 billion to $6 billion, according to unnamed sources.

THL's approach is different than other private-equity firms such as Silver Lake, KKR and TPG, which are expected to put in bids for a stake of up to 20% in the company,



Late on Monday,

The New York Times

reported that Silver Lake might partner with


(MSFT) - Get Report

on a bid for 20% of the company, as an outright company sale becomes less likely, according to unnamed sources. With Wednesday's reports of a $16.60 a share bid, it's unclear whether Microsoft is involved.

As deal rumors swirl this week of a minority stake sale, Yahoo! may be closer to appeasing unhappy shareholders. With a stake sale, the company could use the proceeds to pay shareholders a special dividend, while management would retain control of the Web giant co-founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo.

Yahoo! shares rose 2.3% to $15.70 in premarket trading Wednesday. Shares have fallen over 5.5% year to date and are still roughly half of their value prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

Earlier in November, reports signaled that some private-equity firms and potential bidders signed non-disclosure agreements that would preclude them from making partner bids for Yahoo!. Other interested parties like


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and Yahoo!'s Asian partners




have resisted signing agreements, according to reports. New rumors surfacing late on Monday about a potential Microsoft and Silver Lake co-bid, have cast previous reports in doubt as to whether they've signed NDAs.

Speculation about Yahoo!'s fate began in earnest when the company ousted Carol Bartz as CEO in early September and hired investment bankers to undertake a strategic review of its options.

Scenarios that have been discussed in the press have included a full company sale, a divestiture of minority owned Asian assets like Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, or a push for growth in online ad sales through acquisitions.

After firing Bartz, Yahoo! confirmed in a letter to employees that it had hired advisers to consider strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value -- code for potential sales. In the letter, Yahoo! said it needed to "reignite" its business and anticipate how consumers would take in media content in the future

Yet it's still unclear whether Yahoo! will actually decide on a full or partial sale of the company. Yahoo!'s management rejected a $44 billion merger offer by Microsoft in 2008.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York