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Wall Street Mulls Next Megamerger
By Ian Simpson   Reuters
NEW YORK — Wall Street, stunned by the $150 billion merger of America Online Inc. (AOL.N) and media empire Time Warner Inc. (TWX.N), wrestled Tuesday with the question of what corporate mega-deal could be next.


AP/Wide World
Yahoo! founders David Filo, left, and Jerry Yang, right, hold up a fish prop in Filo's office in Santa Clara, Calif. that was used in a recent Yahoo! television advertisement.

And the swirl of speculation about possible mergers between high-flying Internet companies and old-line media companies centered on one player — Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO.O), the fast-growing network of Web sites.

"Yahoo! is sitting in the driver's seat," said Carolyn Trabuco, an analyst with First Union Securities. "I think Yahoo! can do any deal that it wants to do."

Other market buzz featured a host of more big names that could be struggling for a place in the market in the wake of Time Warner's takeover Monday by AOL, the No. 1 Internet service provider.

They included:

— The Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N), the No. 2 entertainment company, with its Go.com (GO.N) Web unit, theme parks and movie studio;

— Seagram Co. Ltd. (VO.TO) (VO.N), the world's biggest music company and owner of Universal Studios;

— CBS Corp. (CBS.N), the broadcasting company in the middle of a $47 billion merger with Viacom Inc. (VIA.N), the owner of MTV, Paramount Pictures and other entertainment properties, in a $37 billion deal;

— MindSpring Enterprises Inc. (MSPG.O), the No. 2 U.S. Web service provider after America Online.

General Electric Co.'s (GE.N) NBC television network and Japan's Sony Corp. (SNE.N)(6758.T), the consumer electronics giant and music company and owner of Columbia Pictures, also were part of the mix.

David Kathman, a Morningstar analyst in Chicago, said Yahoo! was a natural choice since the company had the most popular network of Web sites. It also has a highly valued stock that it can use as merger currency.

"There are just all kinds of possibilities," he said. For example, Kathman said Yahoo!, based in Santa Clara, Calif., might try to snap up MindSpring as a way to break into the Web service business.

A Yahoo! spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the speculation.

Peter Kreisky, vice president of Mercer Management in Lexington, Mass., called Yahoo! a "very desirable target" as other companies looked around for deals to rival the AOL-Time Warner merger.

However, he added, "AOL proved there was only room for one mass media/Internet company. (This deal) wipes out aspiring rivals."

First Union's Trabuco said Yahoo! prized its independence and lacked a "deal shop" corporate atmosphere.

"I think Yahoo! goes it alone for the near term — the next year, 18 months," she said. "There is a lot Yahoo! can do on its own."

Shares of Yahoo!, which also will report fourth quarter results Tuesday after the market closes, were off 29-1/16 at 407 in early afternoon.

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