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Yahoo Reconsidering Plans To Return Alibaba Windfall To Holders

--Filing reveal strategic review by CEO Mayer --Yahoo previously said it would return proceeds from the asset sale to shareholders --Company hasn't announced any final decisions By Drew FitzGerald Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) warned Thursday that as part of a corporate review by new Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, the company may change its plans to return to shareholders most of the proceeds expected from the sale of a stake in Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. In May, Yahoo agreed to sell half of its 40% stake back to the Chinese e-commerce company for $7.1 billion and said it would return "substantially all" of the after-tax proceeds, estimated at the time to be at least $4.2 billion, to shareholders. As late as the company's earnings call last month, Yahoo said it planned to return those proceeds to shareholders through stock buybacks. In a regulatory filing Thursday, Yahoo said Mayer's review of the company's business strategy "may lead to a re-evaluation of, or changes to, our current plans, including our restructuring plan, our share repurchase program" and the previously announced plans on handling the Alibaba proceeds. The comments spooked investors, who had applauded the Alibaba move in May. Yahoo shares slid 3.5% to $15.45. A Yahoo spokeswoman wasn't immediately available for comment. Ms. Mayer, a former Google executive, last month became Yahoo's sixth chief executive in five years. The potential about-face in Yahoo's spending plans falls in line with Ms. Mayer's technology-heavy background, ThinkEquity analyst Ron Josey said, but it still caught some investors by surprise. He noted a lot of shareholders bought the stock thinking that Yahoo was going to start a multibillion-dollar buyback plan. Yahoo Thursday didn't detail any decisions about its strategic direction, though its filing lets management spend its existing cash on uses other than those detailed over the past few months. "She didn't come here to wind the company down," Mr. Josey said. "She came here to restore Yahoo to what it used to be." Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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