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Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO)

42nd Annual JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference Call

May 19, 2014, 10:20 AM ET

Executives

Ken Goldman - CFO

Joon Huh - IR

Analysts

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

All right we'll go ahead and get started. My name is Doug Anmuth. I am the Internet Analyst here at JPMorgan. It’s our pleasure to have Yahoo! here, CFO, Ken Goldman, Head of IR, Joon Huh. So the most important question that I have for you Ken is first just get this out of the way. You have a new coach out in Golden State for the Warriors. Any thoughts there?

Ken Goldman

I don't worry about my disclaimer for that one.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

No, you don't.

Ken Goldman

You know it’s funny. I am a little bit involved with the Warriors so I do have a lot of fun with basketball. We’ll see it's amazing how people who are untested get so much desire but anyway they were a great team last year and this past year and we hope they will be a great team again and certainly a fun to watch.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

I am not that happy as a Knicks fan just so you know, but…

Ken Goldman

Well, yeah, you never know, beware of what you wish for. Let’s see.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Fair point, okay…

Ken Goldman

Let me just, so…

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Go ahead.

Ken Goldman

Thanks for this everybody. Good morning. I would like to remind you this discussion may contain forward-looking statements about expected financial and operational performance. Please refer to various risk factors in our 10-Q as well as in our 10-K and other filings. Thank you. Doing my job.

Ken Goldman

All right. Any opening remarks you'd like to give or is that’s the starters and we’ll jump in.

Ken Goldman

I think you can start. Yeah, I think you can go with how the questions are. I think most folks have followed us I would say that if you look back we’re reasonably pleased with our past quarter’s performance. There is no question we have a lot of work to do. I don't want to minimize the work we have to do.

I would say in my own opinion where we have stabilized where we are, we’ll continue and probably get some questions later on this but we have continued really on the focus that we would start with the key hiring and recruiting. We are focused on our products and properties and we made lot of progress in last 15 months on that and as we go forward this year and next year as we think about it clearly we do need to work on engagement. It is a mobile world that we live in as you all know and so from that we will focus on from engagement to revenue and then operating metrics.

Clearly we have a lot of work to do from an operational point of view as well. We are investing heavily in the business today. That does not mean that we will diminish our opportunities down the road to grow both operating profit and EBITDA as we get past the growth, I mean the investment phase. So that’s how we are thinking about it, it’s how we have come in you know really no change from how we thought about it when we first got there. Clearly again as I said there is a lot of work to do and it will take us some time to get there.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, so Marissa’s talked about the five phases of growth and sort of know that you are in the stable to modest growth period now and on the path hopefully toward market growth. Can you just talk about how you think about getting there and over what time frame you think that could happen?

Ken Goldman

Well, there is effectively three components if you think about our revenue stream; there is search, display and other which includes listings fees and royalty revenue so forth. If you take out the other which is an area that we haven’t really focused on we grew about 5% last quarter and actually a little higher in the Americas, I think Americas is more 8%. So we are seeing some growth.

Search has been actually quite consistent, if you look at Search click revenue driven growth that’s been in the low single, a low double digit growth, 13%-14% in the last several quarters both and we have seen both improvements this past quarter both in the number of clicks as well as the price per click. So we are investing heavily in Search to doing a lot more -- we have the ability to do a lot more creativities certainly in the mobile side which we are working on in the desktop as well. So that is stable and growing.

In terms of Display, we did show some growth last quarter. It was modest and driven by ads sold which were up 7% year-over-year which is actually up reasonably well from some of the lower numbers of 2%, 3%, 5% that we have previously seen.

Having said that there is still work to do. I don’t want to minimize that that’s probably the area that requires the most change and that’s been much more fundamental. Fundamental in so far as we've had to really work hard on the various products that we have and properties and decide which ones are most important. That’s how we came to the conclusion of focusing in on what people do every day, the daily dozen if you will whether it’s sports, finance, news, weather and so forth.

So focus on that home page is clearly a driver and we will talk about that later it’s really how we go is really a lot driven by the home page and how that sort of feeds out to the other properties. So that’s where we are and again that will also be helped as we get better in video because Display clearly is not only driven by the mobile side and where the world is going but also the fact that more and more of the world is going video, more and more of the world is going stream advertising, stream and native. So we will be focusing on that as well as another growth area for us in social and Tumblr

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Let’s stick with the home page, Ken, maybe you can just talk about how - what’s changed the most there over the last 18 months, and the affects you think that’s had on the rest of the business and how that’s sort of driven down to the advertising numbers as well?

Ken Goldman

Well the ad -- again I think that we are trying to make it more relevant. We've changed the look and feel of the home page and so there is a lot of - we have been working on that. We have created much, you know we are in the process of actually it is= we’re still in work in progress in terms of creating better editorial content, whether it’s the new site and bringing in some new editors, whether feeding into various highlights from sports and finance and other properties.

I think we have also worked on the various ad formats. I mean there is still a desire for billboard ads and that’s where you get a big audience. So that is really driving it. And I would say we still -- it’s interesting but after all the work we are doing we still -- the home page is the leading indicator for us in terms of people coming to it and then going from there to see other sites and so there is a lot of focus on that both in terms of the content, which we are working on and we will keep on bringing on additional and better editors if you will as well as we think about how we look at different ad formats on there.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

So just sticking with Display here I mean as Yahoo! goes to market, how do you balance that massage to advertisers and just Madison Avenue in general around sort of the power and the breadth of the home page and a home page takeover for example but then now also what you are doing with native ads across both desktop and then also mobile?

Ken Goldman

Well, again I think it’s really what I was just discussing. I mean I think if you want to reach a large audience your homepage is really for you. If you want to reach more targeted that’s when folks go to things like finance or sports and so forth. So I think it depends upon size of audience and so I sort of connect it, compare it to I don't want to say Super Bowl, but certainly a TV type format where it’s a large, more of a generic audience, that’s what people come to the homepage for versus being much more targeted for the various unique properties that we have in the other sites and so that is really how you think and how you want to reach particular audience.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay and I think native in particular you talked about it being 20% of ad volume today. Can you just talk a little bit about how you think click-through rate engagement sort of pricing compared to other display formats?

Ken Goldman

Yeah pricing is still a bit below other formats. We’re still working on it. It’s really pretty new. It’s come about last year in terms of the native formats. We’ve really driven it very hard. I mean the fact it's gone from basically almost 0% to 20% as far as display in approximately a year is tremendous growth. So it adds value if you will to the site. So that’s one of the key things we are trying to do is, is have ads that add to the content and value, not detract from the user ability to view.

So we are working on that and so we have done that. The pricing is somewhere below, that’s why we talked about how our pricing will take out Display, pricing on Display would have been actually up year-over-year if you take out the streamed ads, the native ads.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, let’s shift over to Search a little bit here. Can you talk more about sort of the impact of mobile in Search? Maybe give us some color on how you think about it as a percentage of queries, of revenue and really what’s driving the mobile improvements you are seeing in click yield?

Ken Goldman

I think to me what we like about mobile is certainly the improved targeting, timeliness, location based and mobile certainly helps a lot. Having relationships with various properties be it Yelp, whatever certainly helps. You know again I think if you look at our -- both actually mobile both for search and display was up about 100% year-over-year. They are becoming meaningful numbers for us; I expect over time we will break out those numbers as they become even more meaningful.

So I think in terms of search there is no question that growth in our search is going to be in the mobile side, be it the smartphone, be it tablet and so forth. Our goal here is to hold our own in desktop and continue to work on that but to be more innovative if you will in where we can add much more value from our perspective in the mobile side than we could add on the desktop side.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

And how does -- just a follow-up there.

Ken Goldman

Joon, if you want to add as I….

Joon Huh

Yeah, sure, another part that I would add is we do have a unified platform with mobile search and native ads. So it’s Gemini, so we get some questions on that but what we want to do was create a marketplace where performance advertisers that use native ads and search could come to one place and allocate ad budget.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, can you -- you started to just talk about perhaps being more innovative on mobile than you are able to be on the desktop. Can you talk more about the relationship with Microsoft now and how you are thinking about that, what perhaps you are now able to do sort of outside of the desktop world versus what you have done?

Ken Goldman

Well, there's effectively non-exclusive on the mobile side and so we are doing a lot of work internally there. We have beefed up our capabilities there. We think we can add some real value clearly. It's an area where Marissa came from. She knows that space cold, if I can say it that way, and so we have a lot of DNA, if you will, both in terms of people we had in the company; Marissa and the team she's brought in and so forth. So there is uniqueness there that we think we can sort of carve out ourselves.

Again I am always careful to say our relationships with our partners are really important to us, so the relationship with Microsoft is very, very important to us as other partners are. One of the things we have tried to change in this company is to be a much partner-oriented, partner-friendly company. I think we had a perspective of being a little bit adversarial in past years and so we are really working on this. So we have a good relationship with Microsoft. We are working hand-in-hand with them on search as well but there are some unique capabilities and creativity that we can bring and we do think that’s -- there’s no question, I shouldn’t say we think, we know that that’s where the real growth will come in search over time and we will certainly -- we are going to invest in that, we are going to drive it and we think we can grow it dramatically.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, and Joon you touched on Gemini, just sort of a new marketplace essentially for buying across different ad formats and across search and display, not the first effort that Yahoo! has made over the years in terms of buying kind of cross platform. Can you talk about what’s different here, what the key benefits to advertisers are?

Joon Huh

Yeah, so I think the biggest difference here is that we’re -- we have a leadership team in place that’s focused on search and investing in that business. So it’s people with a vision that search is going to grow -- it’s a growing marketplace. Ken likes to use a term that we are long in search. So we are coming up with new ad formats, new user experiences both for users and for advertisers and we thought that with the shift in mobile that this would be a good platform where you could I guess allocate budget from one place for both display and search.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

And as an advertiser would I literally be able to buy across any format through this platform?

Joon Huh

Sure, so you could do mobile search and you could do native ad formats.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, okay. And how rolled out is this now?

Joon Huh

So it’s early stage. We announced it earlier this year; you can buy it through directly or you can do it through Yahoo! Ad Manager.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay. All right, we can I mean I certainly have a lot of more questions but as you guys have questions and you think of them if you can head over towards the mics you can just go there and then we’ll work some questions in as well. Ken, Yahoo! hired more than 300 engineers, I think in 1Q where are these engineers coming from and how would you assess the company’s ability to go out and attract high quality talent now in what remains just a very competitive tech environment overall?

Ken Goldman

Well, I think we have worked hard. I mean this comes back to the company and the culture of the company and we've worked really hard to make it a much more attractive place to come and work. So I think that has come a long way. And so I am really very, very pleased with that. A part of it is a sort of general things in terms of making sure people have the latest smartphones and computers and laptops and so forth. We have worked -- so we have become much more attractive as a company to both to hire people as well as interesting enough some like 22 was it I think we hires we hired last year in terms of companies.

There was a period of time when people really didn’t want to come to our company. It would be hard to get other companies to be acquired by us. Now we have, now we are able to do that. So our ability to hire talent is really two-fold; one is people we hire -- I mean three-fold, hire from our other companies, hire a significant number of folks from schools and then we have hired a number of folks you know five, 10 engineers at a time when we acquire companies.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, you have talked about potentially sharing more metrics, providing greater transparency over time especially on mobile. What could that look like potentially and how do you know when it's the right time to do that?

Ken Goldman

Well, I think we always look at when metrics become you know material when we think we have our fingers on the pulse relative to trends, when we are sure that or at least we are reasonably sure that it’s a metric that we can provide consistently in the future. It's one of the reasons why when we decided on the four key metrics relative to display ads sold and pricing and clicks and pricing clicks, we came to the conclusion to provide those metrics as well. So we want to make sure that we provide metrics that are representative of and drivers of our business and ones that we feel very, very comfortable about providing in the future.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, and just moving over to the balance sheet you purchased I think about $450 million worth of stock in 1Q, it totals nearly $6 billion or so over the past two years. What your appetite for future buybacks and how do you think how much cash you want to have on the balance sheet?

Ken Goldman

Yes, interesting we get asked that question quite a bit and as funny the question sort of comes with the sense that we have to be pushed to go buyback our stock and nothing could be further from the truth. We did the buyback in Q1 purely really because we felt it was an attractive use of cash. I think it was something like 12 million shares and I think over the last around two years we have bought something like 267 million shares, over 20% of our capital, number of shares have been reduced.

So we do think it has been a good driver for us in terms of how to think about reducing the share count and therefore allowing us over time to have a higher EPS and same, in our business same earnings. So we again I am not going to through exactly what we do from day-to-day but we believe that it is -- and we updated those numbers as you know in the Q but we have believed it’s an attractive use of cash.

We have said in the past that our preference is to keep a cash balance of approximately $3 billion. We ended Q1 with $4.6 billion, although we did have $1.4 million of debt against that, so net cash was something over three. We feel we have some little bit more flexibility today given the fact that Alibaba has filed. So it’s no longer if they will file they have at least filed. So with that in mind again we think generally buyback stock is attractive use of cash for us.

Ken Goldman

Okay, great. There is any questions just mention again. Just feel free to head for the mics in the center of the room. I can also if you are -- and there is one right back there. Okay, well go ahead.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

[inaudible] a certain period, is there any tax or legal reasons you can’t spin out Alibaba shares to shareholders to make it more tax efficient. Could you just talk about what you are thinking about from a tax rate perspective on your Alibaba shares? Thanks.

Ken Goldman

Yeah I am not going to get into specific things that we can or cannot do. It’s actually quite complicated what we are allowed to do both with Alibaba as well as what works. I’ll just leave my comments to we think about as two separate tranches. We think about the initial tranche of the IPO. We think about the second tranche at such a time as whenever the lock-up is released and we have the flexibility to sell the stock.

Again I always come back to we have interest to look at what is the most efficient provision of proceeds in terms of use of company as well as for our shareholders. I always remind folks that 80% plus of all the management is focused on our share price and equity so clearly we are incented to do everything possible that is clearly legal in terms of how to maximize the use of proceeds and that’s really all I feel I can say right now.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Go ahead.

Unidentified Analyst

You have a very interesting and somewhat exciting list of things that you are trying to do and opportunities. Can you kind of frame those in the sense of defining what your business model is today? Has your business model changed a lot since 12 months ago and will there be a lot of refinement and change in the business model going forward? Is there a business model concept you could state?

Ken Goldman

I think if I understand your question correctly you are asking has our business model changed from what we saw a year ago and so I would say…

Unidentified Analyst

And is it stable or is it going to change a lot going forward?

Ken Goldman

I don't see change in the near term. I sort of try to when I started talking, I sort of said we are in an investor mode today which means that if you look at this is no surprise if you look at our numbers, EBITDA was down year-over-year. We certainly don't want that to continue forever obviously and so I look at ’14 is clearly still, we are investing. We don't provide long term guidance at this point but there is a couple of things I think about.

One is we really do need to drive the business with revenue growth and two is over time we need to be more effective in our cost structure. And we are going to work on both of those as we think about how best to manage our business. So in terms of Q1 if you look at our overall cost structure was about comparable to Q4. We gave some thoughts to Q2 which suggest that it will be also pretty comparable to Q1 and so you know part of it we have to sort of live, a little bit within our means. On the other hand that we do need to -- it’s very, very important to drive the business and to grow the business.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Go ahead.

Unidentified Analyst

Fundamentally when you look at your Alibaba stake I understand you can’t talk specifics but does management -- is management okay with an exit of that stake that doesn’t involve the company receiving cash?

Ken Goldman

So another nuance, again I don’t want to speak to specifically whether we want to get cash or not. I would say this way. We provided I think correctly if I am wrong, some like 85% of the proceeds we have got last year, or I don't know, ‘12 I should on Alibaba back to shareholders. We announced a new 5 billion stock buyback late last year. So again our perspective is whatever makes sense, again I can always raise equity if I wanted to. It’s a balance of cash. So there is a lot of things we can do and again I just always come back to we are absolutely aligned. We are incented to look at whatever works best in terms of our overall shareholder returns. So that’s what really couches our thinking more than anything else.

Unidentified Analyst

Hi, I was just going to ask question about product development. Do you have very dedicated teams or are you shift -- constantly shifting resources from one product to another? And then when it comes to hiring, how does the company prioritize where it’s dedicating its resources?

Ken Goldman

Not quite sure I understand exactly the question. Let me address it and if I miss feel free to ask again. We really hire for different groups and so if we are hiring mail communication which is really a key focus of ours, we hire in the mail group. If we are hiring mobile, we hire mobile engineers, if we are hiring video, we are hiring video, if we are hiring into sports or finance, we are hiring into those properties.

So the hiring is really specific to our need, that’s how we think about R&D and again I think we have made -- when we came to the company for whatever reason the company was letting go of engineering talent. We have just done the opposite. So it is a focus of ours strictly in the computer science area as you’d expect for company like ours.

Unidentified Analyst

Thanks.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

A question from the audience just about video and Marissa has talked video being a driver of the business going forward. How important is it for you to own content versus being sort of the host for others' content how are bidding potential video content to put on the site and do you have any agreements to distribute your own video content beyond Yahoo!?

Ken Goldman

Not sure I understand last question. But I think there is -- what we've found on video is uniqueness and timeliness really matters. And so whether we just did a relationship with Live Nation, we see a great uptick in terms of advertiser and sponsorship interest in that. We are very excited about the two new series that we are going to work on and produce effectively. We think that’s very important and so you know when we get into these -- we have sports clips, loops as we call them and so video is very important relative to again as the having content that's unique and specific to us that we provide exclusivity to is we've found really important as well as having it relevant to user base.

I think you asked another question but I am not sure I followed that question.

Unidentified Analyst

Just about the ability to distribute your own, sort of develop and own video content?

Ken Goldman

Well again that’s what we -- when I think about the two series we just announced that’s we are going to being doing there in terms of Live Nation. We have exclusivity relative to various contents they are going to provide for our site. So we are very positive about that in terms of how we think about video so more so than trying to you know repurpose video that you can visualize in a lot of different ways and so that’s how we have sort of moderated a little bit how we think about video vis-à-vis what we have done in the past.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

And is there just looking on video for a second, is there anything or is there that you really think differentiates Yahoo! And the ability to do video beyond just the massive scale that you have?

Ken Goldman

One thing that I was about to say I think it is the massive scale whether we have you know over 400 million monthly average users in mobile you know almost twice that, around twice that -- almost twice that relative to overall usage. I think it is the scale where a large video site, large user base with a homepage, the fact that I think we are the only that really in entirety has the various different properties all the way from sports, news, weather, finance and so forth.

So we do cover a lot of ground and I think that does clearly differentiate us. I mean the thing that most of the other sites are basically UGC, user generic content we are one of the very few that effectively creates our own content both in terms of what we create as well as acquiring that content for exclusivity. So we differentiate ourselves I think quite well and that’s one of the ways that I think about Yahoo! when I think about the search is obviously is primarily UGC but if you think about the display side and all the various properties much of that is our own content and curated content.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Question back there.

Unidentified Analyst

Yeah regarding ability to attract now eye balls on website how do you see that? What’s your approach? Is it a build it and if you build it they will that come, model or where are you going to increase your exposure in the public eye?

Ken Goldman

I think the thing we need to do is those eye balls have been going mobile and clearly that’s where we show the growth and so where in mobile whether its video, social and Tumblr. Tumblr mobile also was up significantly year-over-year. I think 60% of people coming to Tumblr now come via mobile. So clearly the eye balls are coming to us and others in the mobile site and that's both smartphone as well as tablet.

I think the other thing is we need to do frankly a better job on the content and so content is higher quality, more relevant really is important to us. We need to work on that better and so whether again that comes out across all the various sites whether it’s finance news, and sports whatever and making sure we have the right relationship so that when people do come to finance it’s the best site, when they come to sports it’s the best site. They can get all the information they want. That’s really, really important for eye balls.

And I think as we do a lot of different work in the company I think we are going to have to make sure we continue to do a better job of letting people know what is available at Yahoo! I can’t remember exactly but it’s amazing how well weather has done basically with word of mouth in terms of the new site that we have and the ability of people to find it and there were number of awards that people have given us relative to the new weather app.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

I am sorry. When would you start adopting…?

Unidentified Analyst

Yeah, at what point would you adopt a broader marketing strategy like what’s your trigger or how do you think about that?

Ken Goldman

Well you know we have done some of that already. I think we will continue to do more of that. It’s one of the things that we do find important. It’s one of the areas that when I talked about investment before we will be investing in and probably my marketing person is listening as I speak and getting excited about doing POs but don't do too much of that but no I think marketing we have been doing that, we will continue to do that. It’s a very important area for us as we go forward and so we have been doing that.

Joon Huh

What I would also add is that the product focus that we have is not just on the initial launch. It’s also that we have been iterating and improving those products as we go along. So even if you look at our Flicker app or weather app or mail, or any of our mobile apps that we have today we continually improve them based on user feedback.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Just Ken you had mentioned Tumblr before and just want to follow up there and really just ask how the acquisition is going relative to your expectations at this point both from the product and also a user perspective? And then how do you think about the monetization opportunity here relative to other platforms when you think about Facebook and Twitter for example?

Ken Goldman

Yeah I would say two things, some of the things maybe. First of all it is absolutely on track from our perspective as to what we expect to achieve this year. We’re very pleased with frankly with keeping the people there, growing the engagement, growing the mobile site. I think we have some like top 150 at least people have tried top 150 of 350 advertises have worked in the site. We are working with search to do a better job on search on the site as well. We think the stream and native ads have great opportunity there.

So there is nothing at all that diminishes our expectations for that. We have kept it relatively independent except when it comes to how we think about managing the financial aspect of it but so it’s relatively independent in driving the business and from our perspective we are on track to achieve the numbers that we had expected to achieve this year. So we think it’s going very, very well actually.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Any other questions out in the audience?

Unidentified Analyst

[Question Inaudible]

Ken Goldman

Yeah, so the way to do that is reallocation. So we need -- there are areas in our company that we need to do better in terms of cost efficiency. You know I think if you go back and think about year ’13 our expenses overall did increase, headcount went up modestly but did go up. As I think about ’14 I think it’s really important that we moderate and I have used that word in the past we moderate expense growth and so as we invest we offset those investments with others areas where we become more efficient and effective in our cost structure. I think it’s very-very important.

And there will be point in time when hopefully revenue will grow fast enough that we can really drive the bottom line. My sense is as we see stability and growth I think it’s important for us to develop a business model that we would share with the financial community so you get a sense of what we expect to be achieving out couple-three years. So we do think moderation of expenses is very, very important and sort of why Q1 was comparable roughly to Q4 if you take out any patent sales and so forth.

So you look at normalized cost Q1. Q4 to Q1 is pretty comparable and if you go through and think about our guidance that would suggest the same for Q2 at the time we gave the guidance and again I think the ability to reallocate the ability to become more effective cost effective in several of areas in our cost structure will be very, very important as we go forward.

Doug Anmuth - JPMorgan

Okay, great. We can leave it there just in the interest of time. Thank you Ken, thank you, Joon.

Ken Goldman

Thank you.

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