By Claire West
Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Alibaba Group Holding Limited announced they have entered into a definitive agreement for a staged and comprehensive value realization plan for Yahoo!’s stake in Alibaba.
The first step is the repurchase by Alibaba of up to one-half of Yahoo!’s stake, or approximately 20% of Alibaba’s fully-diluted shares. The purchase price will be based on a valuation of Alibaba to be established through equity financings that Alibaba intends to undertake to finance the transaction, subject to a floor valuation of approximately US$35 billion.
The agreement includes substantial financial incentives for Alibaba to raise the additional equity at a valuation higher than US$35 billion. At the minimum price and assuming the initial repurchase of the full 20% stake, Yahoo! would receive from Alibaba consideration of approximately US$7.1 billion, composed of at least US$6.3 billion in cash proceeds and up to US$800 million in newly-issued Alibaba preferred stock.
The agreement also establishes a framework for Yahoo! to monetize its remaining interest in Alibaba in stages. First, at the time of an initial public offering (IPO) of Alibaba in the future, Alibaba will be required either to repurchase one-quarter of Yahoo!’s current stake at the IPO price or allow Yahoo! to sell those shares in the IPO. Second, following such an IPO, Yahoo! has registration rights and rights to marketing support from Alibaba to enable Yahoo! to dispose of its remaining shares, at times of Yahoo!’s choosing following a customary lock-up period.
This agreement is a result of extensive discussions between the two parties and a comprehensive review of both taxable and tax-efficient alternatives. Yahoo! and Alibaba believe this agreement to be the best path to align incentives and maximize value for shareholders of both companies and it paves the way for Alibaba to achieve future public market liquidity for all of Alibaba’s shareholders.
For Yahoo!, the agreement provides for a staged exit over time, balancing near-term liquidity and return of cash to shareholders with the opportunity to participate in future value appreciation of Alibaba.
“Today’s agreement provides clarity for our shareholders on a substantial component of Yahoo!’s value and reaffirms the significance of our relationship with Alibaba,” said Ross Levinsohn, Interim CEO of Yahoo!. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the Alibaba team on business initiatives as we explore joint opportunities for growth and benefit from Alibaba’s future. I want to thank Jack Ma, Joe Tsai and the Alibaba team, as well as Tim Morse, Michael Callahan and our Yahoo! team for their dedication in achieving this successful outcome.”
“This transaction opens a new chapter in our relationship with Yahoo!,” said Jack Ma, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. “I look forward to working with Ross Levinsohn and the Yahoo! team as Alibaba builds China’s leading e-commerce company. Yahoo!’s global audience reach will provide attractive partnership opportunities for Alibaba to explore markets outside of China. The transaction will establish a balanced ownership structure that enables Alibaba to take our business to the next level as a public company in the future.”
“We look forward to delivering the proceeds of the near-term transaction to our shareholders, and to the further enhancement of value and the additional monetization in the future that this agreement enables,” said Timothy R. Morse, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Yahoo!.
In addition to the share repurchase, the companies have also agreed to amend their existing technology and intellectual property licensing agreement. Among other things, this amendment will result in Yahoo! granting Alibaba a transitional license to continue to operate Yahoo! China under the Yahoo! brand for up to four years, while restrictions on Yahoo!’s ability to make other investments in China will be terminated. Alibaba will make an upfront lump sum royalty payment of US$550 million to Yahoo! and continuing royalty payments for up to four years. In addition, Alibaba will license certain patents to Yahoo!. Upon closing of the repurchase transaction, the Alibaba shareholders’ agreement will be amended so that the parties’ respective rights will be commensurate with the parties’ post-closing level of ownership in Alibaba. Yahoo! will continue to be represented on Alibaba’s board of directors with the right to appoint one of four existing directors.
Yahoo! intends to return substantially all of the after-tax cash proceeds to shareholders following the closing of the transaction. While the form of the return of capital to shareholders has not yet been finalized, Yahoo!’s board has increased Yahoo!’s share buyback authorization by US $5 billion concurrently with this transaction.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. Alibaba will be required to close the repurchase with respect to at least one-quarter of Yahoo!’s current stake in Alibaba regardless of the amount of financing raised, and up to one-half of Yahoo!’s current stake if it obtains the requisite financing. Alibaba intends to finance the repurchase through a combination of its own cash resources, debt, equity and equity-linked financing. The transaction is expected to close within approximately six months.