SAN FRANCISCO -- Remember when it was only the every-other-week talk of a buyout by Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report that could lift Yahoo! (YHOO) shares?

It's time to welcome another sparkplug.

Yahoo!'s stock jumped more than 6% in recent trading to $11.42 after

The Wall Street Journal

's online edition reported that former AOL Chief Executive Jon Miller has been trying to raise money to buy all or a part of Yahoo!.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the

WSJ

said Miller had been talking to private equity investors and sovereign wealth funds for months to generate funds for a deal worth around $20 or $22 a share.

Such a transaction, the article says, would involve raising about $28 billion to $30 billion for a purchase of the whole company. Sources "close" to Yahoo! expressed "deep skepticism" that Miller could raise enough money, considering the reluctance of banks to commit to any significant lending in recent weeks.

But if you're a Yahoo! shareholder, that's not really the point, is it?

Whether this -- or any -- deal comes about or not, Yahoo! investors have just been told by somebody that isn't Microsoft that their company, which is struggling mightily in the face of its own missteps and a global economic downturn, has abundant

value

waiting to be unlocked.

Over the longer term, how it gets unlocked, whether it be by the Miller-led investor group, Microsoft or a new trail-blazing CEO at Yahoo!, doesn't matter much. Assuming the interest by Miller is real, Yahoo! has now been officially verified by another third part as cheap at under $12 a share.

The near term becomes more interesting, naturally, particularly regarding how Microsoft proceeds from here. Microsoft CEO

Steve Ballmer

has been adamant since early June that he's no longer interested in a full takeover of Yahoo!, preferring instead a search-advertising partnership -- the groundwork of which is still being laid, according to a weekend report by

The Times of London

.

It's conceivable that Yahoo! could do independent partial transactions with both Miller and Microsoft that don't involve a complete sale of Yahoo!.

But if Miller raises his $30 billion to buy all of Yahoo!, does Microsoft watch what could be a key piece to its future Internet portfolio walk away without a fight? If Microsoft was willing to shell out $33 a share for Yahoo! seven months ago, it would be hard to believe it wouldn't take a hard look at offering $25.

Enjoy it, Yahoo!. You may have become a hot property again.