Next quarter, Marissa Meyer will complete her second full year as CEO of Yahoo. When her job performance is reviewed by the board of directors, she will be able to report that, despite all the issues the pioneer Internet browser, search and Web services company has had to quell over the last decade, Yahoo, in fact, is growing again.
However, it is indeed modest quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year growth.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company reported April 15 that its revenue increased 1 percent to $1.3 billion in Q1 2014 after four straight quarters with lower or flat results. While overall revenue was down 1 percent from a year ago, revenue from display ads increased 2 percent year-over-year to $409 million.
The report marked the first increase in Yahoo’s first-quarter display ad revenue in three years. Yahoo’s ad business began slipping about six years ago with the advent of social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
After all its bills were paid, Yahoo banked $312 million, or 29 cents per share, during the quarter. That compares to $390 million (35 cents per share) in the same 2013 financial period.
“We believe we are moving from our core business being in decline to modest or stable growth,” Mayer said in a video conference call.
Yahoo’s ace-in-the-hole has been its foreign investment portfolio, which includes as its crown jewels the highly profitable Chinese-owned Alibaba Group auction/retail site system and Yahoo Japan.
Yahoo owns 24 percent of Alibaba and is anxiously awaiting the company’s initial public offering, expected to take place later this year. Alibaba’s fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled from the previous year to $1.4 billion while its revenue ballooned 66 percent to $3.06 billion.
Alibaba’s earnings were from Q4 2013 due to a three-month lag before Yahoo can book its portion of Alibaba’s profits, so investors and analysts on a video conference call April 15 got a sneak peak at future Yahoo income.
Alibaba’s market value could range anywhere from $150 billion and $200 billion by the time it goes public, analysts say. That would provide Yahoo a substantial block of cash when it chooses to sell its Alibaba stock.
Although Mayer is generally seen as doing a creditable job as CEO — which has included repositioning the company in several sectors and overseeing the layoffs of several thousand employees since 2012 — the expected gains from the Alibaba investment is largely the reason Yahoo’s stock has more than doubled since Yahoo hired Mayer from Google Inc. in July 2012 to revive its ad sales.
Yahoo’s stock gained $2.29, or nearly 7 percent, to $36.50 in after-hours trading.