Yahoo’s Sweetheart of the Week: AOL

News Corp & Yahoo? Soooo last week. The pairing du jour, according to Silicon Alley Insider, is Yahoo & AOL.

While clearly not a strategic move to overtake Google, the merger could be a good thing according to the Insider:

Yahoo and AOL should merge: AOL has some valuable assets–AIM, ICQ, mail, premium properties, MapQuest–but it has no place in the current portal wars. To stay relevant, AOL needs to combine these assets with one of the other players, and the Yahoo combination makes the most sense.

However, as the Insider points out as well, a deal between Yahoo and AOL couldn’t take the place of a Microsoft/Yahoo deal. Like the News Corp deal, an AOL deal would be severely lacking in cash, especially compared to Microsoft’s offer.

Is News Corp Courting Yahoo, Too?

Yahoo spurned one offer in the last week—but are they already courting another? It’s Valentine’s Day, and the timing is perfect for a love triangle. Although Rupert Murdoch states last week that News Corp was not interested in Yahoo, we all know that was junior high code and secretly Murdoch was doodling NWS + YHOO all over his algebra notebook.

I mean, that could be the only conceivable reason why rumors abound this week that the two are in acquisition talks, right? As Reuters reports, speculation is flying thick and fast about a potential deal.

But Reuters’ analyst friends contend that this isn’t really very likely, even if talks are ongoing. Microsoft reserved the right to continue to take further steps toward a merger, though it hasn’t yet said what its next step will be. The consensus among the analysts seems to be that Yahoo’s not going to get a better offer from anyone else:

Did Yahoo Buy Bebo for $1 Billion?

TechCrunch is reporting rumors–for the umpteenth time–that social network Bebo has been acquired for $1 billion. While TC’s betting on Google, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Yahoo as the buyer.

Yahoo desperately needs to reinvent itself–which likely means ditching its search aspirations and focusing on its huge network of users. At this time, nothing would be a better shot in the arm than to emerge as a huge social network–something it can do with an acquisition of Bebo.

It would also give current investors an alternative path to consider alongside the option of simply hosting a fire sale. It would also make any hostile takeover bid by Microsoft a lot tougher to achieve.

Rumor Mill: Google to Buy Bebo

bebo logoTechCrunch speculates that there’s a 51% chance that Google might buy Bebo—or maybe MySpace will snap up the smaller social networking company. Last year, it was Yahoo that was supposed to be making a $1B offer on Bebo. This year’s guesses are similar—$1B to $1.5B.

TechCrunch explains that the move would almost double Google’s social networking audience, with Orkut’s millions of members worldwide plus Bebo’s non-US English-speaking market. Erick Schonfeld also notes that MySpace could assure its worldwide dominance by buying the #1 social network in several English-speaking countries.

Bebo has an exclusive partnership with Yahoo for display and video advertising. They initially signed on to Google’s OpenSocial, but soon also accepted Facebook’s platform as well.

Could Rumored Yahoo Layoffs Have an Unwanted Effect on the Company’s Brand?

The ‘sphere is buzzing with “anonymous” tips that Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang will soon be faced with the tough decision of firing up to 2.500 employees.

Silicon Alley Insider appears to be the ring leader in the rumor spreading and seems to be all for the layoffs.

Jerry reportedly wants to announce the cuts with or before earnings (January 29th), but may not make them if the stock price recovers.

We believe Yahoo should reduce headcount by at least a thousand people, and others are looking for cuts of more than twice that. Yahoo’s stock has recently hit new lows, almost all of its key businesses are losing ground to Google, and shareholders are beyond frustrated. Jerry Yang, moreover, is perceived as a good guy who is unwilling to make the hard-ass decisions necessary to get Yahoo heading in the right direction again–a perception he is presumably eager to dispense with.

Is Facebook Buying Plaxo? Do You Care?

Facebook is “one hundred percent” buying Plaxo, we’ve just heard from a source.

Wow, starting your story with that sentence certainly grabs your attention, doesn’t it? VentureBeat’s managed to make a statement of "fact" without actually saying that it has confirmed the story. Nice!

Well, assuming it’s "one hunded percent" then I guess we can soon expect our Plaxo accounts to start sniffing around our business contacts and phoning home to the Facebook mothership. You see, part of the reason why Facebook would be interested in coughing-up as much as $200M for Plaxo is that the service has done a great job of convincing us to install its plugins and share our contact info.

That’s the type of info that would be very valuable to Facebook…

Plaxo for Sale?

Rumors seem like more than just rumors when they’re printed by the New York Times, don’t they? Well here’s one that you can judge for yourself: Plaxo is for sale. The news comes from people who were “briefed on the [upcoming] auction.”

The company has yet to turn a profit, but seems to think it’s worth $100 million. With 15 million registered users, the company may be being a bit modest with its valuation. Facebook, after all, thinks it’s worth $10B (and that’s on the low side). With just under four times the registered members, a price tag of $2.5B would at least not be the most outlandish thing we’ve ever heard.