Yahoo-Alibaba asset swap talks falling apart, sources say

SAN FRANCISCO – Talks between Yahoo Inc. and China’s Alibaba Group over the U.S. Internet giant’s Asian assets have hit an impasse, throwing their plans for a $17 billion tax-free asset swap into question, according to sources briefed on the situation.

The snag in negotiations came on the same day that activist investor Daniel Loeb, of hedge fund ThirdPoint, sought to install his own slate of directors on Yahoo’s board, further highlighting the turmoil engulfing the one-time Web pioneer.

Loeb, who has opposed Yahoo’s previous efforts to strike a minority investment deal with private equity, disclosed plans to nominate former NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, along with himself and two others, for Yahoo’s board in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

A collapse of the proposed Asian asset deal – referred to as a cash-rich split-off – would mark the latest setback for an erstwhile Internet leader struggling to turn its business around and appease unhappy shareholders.

Yahoo, whose revenue slid by more than a fifth last year, brought in former PayPal President Scott Thompson as chief executive in January, five months after Carol Bartz was fired.

Two people briefed on the situation described the deal as effectively dead in the water – noting the unreasonable terms sought by Yahoo during talks in Hong Kong and a disconnect between Yahoo’s negotiating team and its strategic stakeholders.

Alibaba Group, whose Chinese e-commerce unit Alibaba.com is listed in Hong Kong, and Japan’s Softbank Corp, which owns around 30 percent of Alibaba, planned to seek clarity on the matter from Yahoo’s Thompson, one of those sources said.