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Ballmer: Yahoo! Move Soon, but Not Today

Microsoft's CEO says he won't pay above true value.

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a never-ending deal negotiation, Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report chief executive suggested Thursday that the end is in sight for a decision on its Yahoo! (YHOO) strategy.

The Redmond, Wash., software company should announce something shortly regarding its bid for Yahoo!, CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly said Thursday in a "town hall" meeting with Microsoft employees.

Microsoft's deadline for Yahoo! to accept its $31-a-share offer ended Saturday, and investors have awaited Microsoft's next step, which it promised was forthcoming this week.

In a

partial, paraphrased recount

on the blog

Silicon Alley Insider

, Ballmer reportedly said: "We ought to announce something in very short order," but added he would have nothing definitive to say Thursday.

Ballmer reiterated his mantra that Microsoft may walk away from a merger, although he still held out the possibilities of achieving a friendly or hostile deal. "I know


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what I think Yahoo! is worth, and I won't go a dime above," he is reported to have said.

Ballmer also discounted the idea that Yahoo! can carry through on the idea of outsourcing some of its search advertising in the U.S. to



, implying that antitrust issues would stymie Yahoo!'s plans. Yahoo!, the No. 2 in the search advertising market, has already tested outsourcing to Google, which is the market leader.

Shares in Microsoft were up 71 cents, or 2.5%, to $29.23 in recent trading. Yahoo! shares were down 41 cents, or 1.5%, to $27 -- trading at lows of the session after news of the Ballmer talk began to leak out.

Microsoft bid $31 a share, or $44.6 billion, for Yahoo! in March. The value of that cash-and-stock offer has fallen with the decline in the price of Microsoft shares. The offer was considered a 62% premium to Yahoo!'s prior price.

Yahoo! has also sought a relationship with

Time Warner's


AOL division as an alternative to a merger with Microsoft.