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Yahoo puts more than 3,000 patents up for auction

Verizon's proposed acquisition of Yahoo Inc. could kick off other tech mergers.
Verizon’s proposed acquisition of Yahoo Inc. could kick off other tech mergers.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Yahoo Inc. is hoping to sell most of its technology patents as part of a purge that also could culminate in the sale of its Internet operations.

More than 3,000 patents that already have been issued or are under approval review are on the auction block. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company said it hasn’t set a minimum bid for the patent portfolio that it calls Excalibur.

Analysts have estimated that Yahoo’s patents are worth more than $1 billion.

Yahoo said it intends to retain more than 2,000 other patents that have been issued or are awaiting approval in the U.S. and abroad.

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The patent auction comes at the same time that Yahoo is weighing offers for Internet operations that include its email service and digital sports, finance and news sections.

A report published this week by the Wall Street Journal said Verizon Communications has offered $3 billion for Yahoo’s Internet operations, less than the $4.4 billion it paid to acquire AOL last year. The report, which cited an unidentified person familiar with the negotiations, said Verizon isn’t interested in owning Yahoo’s real estate or patents.

Other parties interested in buying Yahoo’s Internet operations include private equity firm TPG and a group led by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert with financial backing from billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Yahoo is considering selling off almost everything it owns except its lucrative stakes in China’s Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan because its own revenue has been crumbling for the past decade. The company hoped to bounce back when it hired former Google executive Marissa Mayer as its CEO nearly four years ago, but instead, things have gotten worse.

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If Yahoo decides to hold onto its slumping Internet operations, Mayer has vowed to boost revenue by selling more mobile ads and slashing costs to increase the company’s profit. Under her latest turnaround plan, Yahoo’s Internet operations would be spun off into a newly formed company, probably sometime next year.

Yahoo hasn’t set a timetable for deciding whether to sell. Many analysts expect the choice to be made by the company’s annual shareholder meeting, which is scheduled for June 30.

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UPDATES:

1:41 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background information.

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This article was originally published at 10:45 a.m.


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