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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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April 23, 2008 9:44 AM

Globe-trotting Ballmer says Microsoft can go forward without Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is sending more signals to Yahoo shareholders after the company's Tuesday earnings report. Take it or leave it was the message from Milan, Italy.

"We are offering a lot of money," Ballmer said today at a Microsoft conference, according to Bloomberg."If Yahoo's shareholders like it, that's great. We are prepared to go forward without a merger with Yahoo."

Observers, including Citi Investment Research analyst Brent Thill, whom I quoted in today's story, and a portfolio manager quoted by Bloomberg, don't see it that way.

"[Ballmer's] playing hardball, and I don't think he can win,'' Larry Haverty, an associate portfolio manager at Gamco Investors Inc. in Rye, New York, told Bloomberg. "Microsoft is doing very poorly in these businesses; they have to have Yahoo."

On the other hand, many analysts see the challenge of integrating Microsoft and Yahoo as a nightmare that would distract both companies from competing with Google. Whether Ballmer's statement today is just more posturing as the acquisition fight nears a critical moment or whether he's really prepared to walk remains to be seen.

As an aside, it's interesting to watch the near-instant global flow of information on this deal, despite the fact that Ballmer is on the far side of the Atlantic. On Tuesday, he said from Morocco that Yahoo's quarterly results would not "affect the value of Yahoo to Microsoft."

So where might he chime in from next? Here's his itinerary for the week:

On Monday he was in Burkina Faso, to speak at the African information communication technology (ICT) Best Practices Forum 2008. Tuesday he was speaking with Morocco's Prime Minister at the Royal Palace and gave a keynote speech at the Innovative Teacher Forum for Arabic countries at the Shkirat Conference Center. Today he was at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Milan to deliver two speeches on software plus services and Microsoft's consumer strategy. For the rest of the week, he's headed to Belgium, where he'll address students and professors at Louvain-la-Neuve University, then to Spain, where he's meeting with Spanish business leaders at the Ministry of Industry.

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