- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Microsoft seems interested in taking part in the negotiations if Yahoo decides to sell part or all of its business.

The DealReporter and The New York Times both reported that Microsoft Corp. has signed a nondisclosure agreement so it can take a closer look at Yahoo’s books. Both publications cited an unnamed person familiar with the matter.

Microsoft and Yahoo Inc. both declined to comment on Wednesday.

Yahoo’s board has been mulling the company’s options since firing CEO Carol Bartz in early September. The alternatives include selling Yahoo’s Asian assets, including the Alibaba Group in China, and auctioning off the company in its entirety instead of hiring a new CEO. Tim Morse, Yahoo’s chief financial officer, has been interim CEO since Bartz’s ouster.

The DealReporter said that Yahoo’s board is scheduled to meet next week to discuss its next step.

Microsoft unsuccessfully tried to buy Yahoo in 2008 at a price as high as $47.5 billion before walking away in frustration. Yahoo’s stock is worth less than half of Microsoft’s last offer of $33 per share.

Yahoo shares fell 3 cents Wednesday to close at $14.94.

The New York Times reported that Microsoft is primarily interested in protecting its Internet search advertising alliance with Yahoo, if its partner pursues a sale or a dramatic reorganization. Microsoft currently provides most of the search technology on Yahoo’s website in return for 12 percent of the ad revenue generated from the results.

To preserve its business relationship with Yahoo, Microsoft previously explored contributing to a joint bid for Yahoo’s U.S. assets with some of the buyout firms that have been considering making offers. That list includes Silver Lake Partners, Providence Equity Partners and the Texas Pacific Group.

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