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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 22, 2008 9:39 AM

Ballmer: Microsoft's bid for Yahoo won't change on today's earnings results

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in Morocco to launch his company's North Africa Web portal, MSN Maghreb, has taken some of the tension out of this afternoon's Yahoo earnings report. Ballmer said Microsoft is not changing its bid, which stood at $43.1 billion, at the market close on Monday, regardless of Yahoo's performance.

"We think we can accelerate our strategy by buying Yahoo and will pay what makes sense for our shareholders," Ballmer said, according to Reuters. "I wish Yahoo all the success with its results but it doesn't affect the value of Yahoo to Microsoft."

That should come as no surprise. Ballmer has already made clear his position on raising the bid -- not gonna do it -- and even hinted at lowering the bid if he has to attempt a hostile takeover of Yahoo. He pledged to initiate a hostile action if the companies haven't "concluded an agreement" on the acquisition by Saturday. What's more, an acquiring company typically does not base the value of its offer on a single quarter's results, looking instead at the long-term value of the asset.

Yahoo's earnings report, to be delivered today after the markets close, will still hold the attention of the investors weighing the Microsoft bid. If its earnings come in on the high-end of the range it reiterated in March, Yahoo could persuade investors to stand by CEO Jerry Yang's go-it-alone strategy. If the numbers are on the low end, it could tilt investor sentiment in favor of the Microsoft acquisition.

Yahoo expects revenue for the first quarter, excluding traffic acquisition costs, to be $1.28 billion to $1.38 billion, and for the full year to be $5.35 billion to $5.95 billion.

Twenty-four Wall Street analysts polled by First Call earlier this month predicted, on average, earnings of 9 cents a share for the first quarter. The New York Post quoted anonymous sources today saying the company will beat Wall Street estimates. Again, this is no huge surprise given the company's behavior in the nearly three months since the Microsoft bid was announced, as Kara Swisher pointed out yesterday.

More important than the first-quarter numbers is Yahoo's guidance for the rest of the year. In January, the company guided full-year revenue, excluding traffic acquisition costs, of $5.35 billion to $5.95 billion.

Analysts will also be watching for growth rates in advertising revenue, registered users and page views, as well as any comments from management on the Microsoft acquisition, rumored tie-ups with AOL, the search advertising test with Google and impacts of a slowdown in the larger economy on display advertising.

We will have coverage online this afternoon and in tomorrow's paper.

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