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Yahoo Japan sinks on parent's warning

Yahoo! said its U.S. earnings would disappoint
Yahoo! said its U.S. earnings would disappoint  

TOKYO, Japan -- Yahoo Japan and Softbank saw their stock prices take a beating Thursday.

Yahoo's U.S. parent said Wednesday its earnings would disappoint and its CEO, Tim Koogle, will step down.

Yahoo Japan plummeted 12.2 percent, closing at 5.75 million. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Yahoo and its subsidiaries own 34 percent of Yahoo Japan.

Tokyo-based Softbank owns around 51 percent of Yahoo Japan. Softbank stock closed down 3.0 percent, to 5,070.

Yahoo Japan declined to comment on stock movements. But a spokeswoman said the company hoped the Internet slump was a cyclical slowdown.

She admitted Japanese advertisers might reduce their online spending, influenced by U.S. trends. But she said Internet advertising had been more stable in Japan than the United States because it is at an earlier stage.

Analysts believe Japan is Yahoo's most-promising market. Though Yahoo Japan is an independent entity, investors predicted U.S. woes would have a spill-over effect. It is due to report its 2001 earnings in April.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo Asia, Yahoo's Asian operations outside Japan, said the company was experiencing a short-term slowdown.

"We have limited visibility in 2001, to be honest," the spokeswoman said. But she said the company was confident and focused on long-term growth.

Strong franchise in Asia

Yahoo has a strong franchise in Asia, where it is the No. 1 portal in big markets such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

But analysts suggested Yahoo's U.S. problems might cause the parent company to turn inward.

Yahoo has recently lost several senior regional executives, such as Asia managing director Savio Chow, who resigned last month. Analysts believe they felt Yahoo had become too conservative in expansion plans.

"Their focus might be moving away from international expansion," said Jahanzeb Naseer, Asia Pacific Internet analyst at ABN Amro. He suggested the company is focusing on its home turf. "If that happens, they could lose ground."

However, Yahoo's problems might have been more serious had they materialized a year ago. Many of its competitors who were expanding then are reorganizing now.

"If they take it easy for four, five or six months, it would not do serious damage to the franchise here," Naseer said.

Yahoo warned Wednesday its earnings would disappoint already reduced estimates. The company said Koogle would stay on as chairman and remain as CEO until the company finds a replacement.

Yahoo Asia top exec quits


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