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Yahoo Headed for Fire Sale? Bids May Come in Below $3 Billion (Report)

Yahoo may not get a price tag anywhere close to what the flagging Internet player’s investors are hoping for.

Current Yahoo bidders including Verizon Communications are expected to offer between $2 billion and $3 billion in the next round — far less than the upwards of $8 billion or more the Internet company had been expecting, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources.

Yahoo shares opened 2.6% lower Friday and were down 1% in morning trading, amid gains in the broader market.

That said, the chatter about low-ball bids could just be part of the haggle. Bidders in an auction generally want to underplay what they’d actually be willing to fork over to win the prize. In addition, bids may be structured differently and may not include all pieces of Yahoo’s business, the WSJ report noted.

Yahoo currently has a market cap of $35 billion, but virtually all of that value is tied to its stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan (which are not part of the sale). Yahoo’s core advertising business is worth $1.5 billion, while its real-estate holdings are valued at $1 billion and its patent portfolio worth at least another $1 billion, according to estimates by SunTrust analyst Bob Peck.

On Yahoo’s first-quarter 2016 earnings call, CEO Marissa Mayer said the board and management team are making the sales process a “top priority,” often holding several calls and meetings per day. “We have been responsive and engaging,” she said.

Verizon has confirmed it’s evaluating an acquisition of Yahoo, but execs have remained mum on particulars. Last year, the telecom giant acquired AOL for $4.4 billion, a deal in large part driven by the Internet company’s advertising-technology capabilities.

Yahoo has set a deadline of the first week of June for the next round of bids, per the WSJ report. It’s not clear if that will be the auction’s final round or if more could be in store.

Others reported to be in the running for Yahoo are private-equity firm TPG and a consortium that includes Bain Capital, Vista Equity Partners and Ross Levinsohn, the media exec who briefly served as Yahoo’s CEO in 2012 before Mayer was hired.

Earlier this week, investment icon Warren Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway would be a potential financing partner for a Yahoo bid by Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans.

As part of Yahoo’s restructuring plan announced in February, which included a 15% headcount reduction, the company said it would explore selling “nonstrategic” patents and real estate this year. Through the end of 2016, the company estimated that could generate between $1 billion and $3 billion in cash.

Last month Yahoo avoided a looming proxy fight after by appointing four new board members nominated by activist investor Starboard Value, including Starboard CEO Jeffrey Smith, who has been critical of Mayer’s leadership. Starboard had previously been seeking to oust Mayer and the rest of the Yahoo board with its own slate of candidates.

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