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Private equity firm Thomas H Lee Partners is looking into slurping Yahoo!'s US operations, rather than taking a minority stake or teaming up with Asian firms.

Sources told Reuters that THL wants to do a leveraged buyout of web firm's US biz, likely worth $5bn to $6bn.

The private equity firm already has experience with media assets like Nielsen, Clear Channel and Univision, so it reckons it can turn Yahoo! US around, it added.

The last rumours swirling around the very hush-hush talks for Yahoo! indicated that most private equity firms are interested in taking a minority stake in the company, with a view to bagging the rest later.

The sources today said that Microsoft is helping to finance a possible investment in the ailing firm along with PE firm Silver Lake.

The other much-talked about option is to partner up with some Asian companies to spread the risk, which Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman are said to be considering in conjunction with China's Alibaba Group and Japan's Softbank.

No firms are going to be commenting on this one as Yahoo! has made it very clear that the whole thing is top secret by enforcing confidentiality agreements on potential suitors.

That move is what's holding the talks up, as companies need to have all their ducks in a row before they sign on the dotted line.

Once they're sworn to secrecy, they're unlikely to be able to form any new partnerships or find extra financing because they won't be able to discuss anything they learn about Yahoo!

Yahoo!'s board is supposed to be meeting some time today to look into the possibility of a minority investment and several parties are expected to be ready to sign the confidentiality agreements by the end of this week, the sources said. ®

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