Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer Keeps Investors Happy, for Now

Updated from 10:39 a.m. ET to provide M&A news in the eleventh paragraph.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Yahoo!'s ( YHOO) second-quarter earnings report did nothing to immediately answer any of the questions about the core business. However, optimism continues to surround Marissa Mayer, and for shareholders, that's just fine for the time being.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company reported earnings of 35 cents a share on $1.07 billion in revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs, as revenue fell 1% year-over-year. Though display revenue fell 11% year-over-year, there was a slight improvement in search revenue, which rose 5% over the same time frame to $403 million.

It appears that while there isn't an immediate bump in the overall numbers, the story is no longer as bleak as it once was. On the conference call, CEO Marissa Mayer said there is a "chain reaction to growth -- people, then products, then traffic, then revenue." She also noted that "pageview traffic achieved crossover in early June, and has grown year-over-year."

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali, who rates Yahoo! "buy," noted the stock continues to benefit from the increase in optimism surrounding the Asian assets (24% stake in Alibaba and 35% stake in Yahoo! Japan), but that the real turnaround may come in 2014. "Longerterm, however, the stock's performance will have to correlate with the turnaround in Yahoo!'s core business, which we won't have material visibility into until 2014," Squali wrote in the report. "YHOO remains a SOP story, with the Asian assets and cash amounting to ~$21.30/sh and a $1.9B buyback that should limit the downside." He lowered his price target to $29 from $30 following the results.

The increase in Alibaba is especially important, as the Chinese Internet giant gets ready to go public. Oppenheimer analyst Jason Helfstein, who raised his price target to $33, notes the strong performance in Alibaba revenue continues to be a huge boon for Yahoo! "1Q Alibaba revenue increased 71% y/y, while operating income was 62% above our estimate on higher margins," Helfstein wrote in the note. "As a result, we now value Alibaba at $92B vs. $73B, previously."

Yahoo!'s slowly starting to turn itself around, as Mayer noted the benefits of recently relaunched products, such as Flickr, Mail, Weather and other Yahoo! properties which have been overhauled in the last few months. The recent acquisition of Tumblr, which CFO Ken Goldman said will not provide any meaningful revenue this year, may start to affect the top line in 2014.

Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju, who has a "neutral" rating and a $23 price target, said it's more of the same from Yahoo!, as Mayer reiterated the new Yahoo! strategy, but offered no specifics on product roadmaps. "Incremental details on the product release roadmap were not offered, but we were however encouraged to see overall traffic levels (ex-Tumblr) return to growth in June, which should serve as a first fledgling sign of a turnaround," Ju wrote in the note. "That said, we remain in a wait-and-see mode pending further signals that the traffic growth is indeed translating into revenue growth."

Again, it's more of the status quo at Yahoo!, and that's OK. For now. While third-quarter revenue estimates were below consensus and non-GAAP operating income was taken down to a range of $900 million and $1 billion, the market is looking past that.

2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for Yahoo!, particularly with the Tumblr acquisition, as well as partnerships, something Mayer believes is crucial for Yahoo!'s future.

The Tumblr story is poised to be crucial for 2014, and in the years ahead. The $1.1 billion purchase was something Mayer did to reinvigorate growth into core Yahoo! in a major way and Tumblr's growth has accelerated since the acquisition closed. BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon, who rates Yahoo! "market perform," noted the importance of Tumblr. "We remain very positive on the adoption of native advertising and believe Yahoo! is positioned well with Tumblr as well as the in-stream ads on the Yahoo! homepage," Salmon wrote in his note. "The product revamp is moving along well, setting the stage for monetization to ramp later this year."

Update: Yahoo! announced it's acquiring Admovate to help with ad experiences on smaller screens.

Mayer noted Yahoo! has strengthened its partnerships, including Apple ( AAPL), Microsoft ( MSFT), Google ( GOOG), Facebook ( FB) and Twitter.

Yahoo!'s future is mobile, and both Tumblr and the aforementioned partnerships are crucial to the company, something Mayer pointed out on the call. "I do think that what we're seeing is a terrific opportunity for Yahoo! around mobile, all the statistics I shared around weather, Yahoo! Mail for mobile, around sports, and many of the other mobile applications that we're working on I think at least they can really enhance a user experience on the phone and we wanted to enhance the user experience right out of the box."

As long as the Asian assets continue to appreciate and the stock buyback program continue to remain in place, that buys Mayer and her team time to turn core Yahoo!'s future around. That's been the case for her first year at the company, and should be for the foreseeable future.

For now, that's just fine for shareholders.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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