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Microhoo! deal roadmap goes round in circles

First Google, now AOL and News Corp again

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Microsoft's hostile takeover bid for Yahoo! is starting to resemble a corporate speed-dating night, as rival suitors jump back in the running.

Last night the company revealed an advertising trial using Google's AdWords which Microsoft - no stranger to competition courts around the world - described as anti-competitive. And today it emerges that mooted rival offers from both AOL and News Corp could be back on the table.

The first rumoured deal would see AOL and Yahoo! merge and AOL's parent company Time Warner invest cash for a 20 per cent stake in the new company. This would include a buy-back of some Yahoo! shares at a higher price than that offered by Microsoft, and would value AOL at around $10bn.

The deal is thought to exclude AOL's dial-up business, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The other rumour is that Microsoft is talking to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp about strengthening its offer by teaming with MySpace. The combination of MySpace, Yahoo! and MSN would certainly be a massive internet property, and massive load of advertising inventory. But none of the three has enjoyed much recent success or stellar growth. Talks are said to be at a sensitive stage, by the New York Times. News Corp was originally talking directly to Yahoo! but Murdoch said he did not wish to get into a bidding war with Microsoft.

By teaming up with Murdoch Microsoft could raise the price it is offering for Yahoo! - the spectre hanging over all these offers is the increased cost of borrowing to fund any such deal. ®

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