Yahoo’s Q4 and 2008 full-year earnings call yielded few surprises in the wake of the economic downtown: Revenue is down, expenses are being controlled and the company will continue to focus on core strengths while offering cautious guidance for Q1 2009. Yahoo watchers know the call was less about dollars and cents and search share and more about whether new CEO Carol Bartz is the wartime consigliore the company needs to return the company back to its iconic status.
Bartz has two parts in Act One of her Yahoo performance. She started off the call with a general overview that included a touch of humor, some honest observations and a slight dash of cheerleading calling Yahoo a “can do” company. Following Blake Jorgensen, Yahoo’s CFO, providing drill down into the numbers, Bartz returned to the call with some generalities about the future, then firmly noted she did not join the company to sell it, but was far more evasive in speaking about Yahoo’s intent to sell its search business. She did say that search has value beyond revenue and market prestige in that it yields valuable data about consumer behavior which the company uses to sharpen its product focus. That point does not preclude Yahoo having access to that data if the search business was sold.
While Bartz played her intentions close to the vest, admitting she is still learning about Yahoo!, she emphasized her focus would be in fixing the organization to become one geared to deliver speedy answers, communicate better internally and facilitate the deployment of innovation. “These are things I am pretty good at,” Bartz noted, having accomplished those very tasks as former CEO of Autodesk.
A few other takeaways: It was interesting there was no mention of Yahoo’s connected TV business which was one of the highlights of CES 2009. Yahoo stands poised to become a major player in the interactive TV platform business and was certainly noteworthy. In addition, for those who worry about Yahoo paying the light bill, the company has $3.6 billion in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet. With that sort of coin in her pocket, we’re going to see if Bartz has some riverboat gambler in her makeup and begins a buying spree of undervalued companies whose add could generate new products and services as well as some much better excitement and buzz. Eight days does not give us much to go on, but Bartz seems suited for the role of Yahoo CEO as we anxiously await acts two and three.