Yahoo! Posts Modest Profits, Promises More Buybacks

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Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) reported fiscal first quarter 2014 results after markets closed Tuesday afternoon. The Internet portal company reported quarterly adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.38 on revenue of $1.13 billion. In the same period a year ago, Yahoo reported EPS of $0.38 on revenue of $1.14 billion.

Excluding traffic acquisition costs (ex-TAC) first quarter revenues totaled $1.09 billion compared with $1.07 billion in the third quarter of 2012. Ex-TAC revenues are what the analysts’ estimate is based on. First-quarter results compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.37 on revenue of $1.08 billion.

Notwithstanding that CEO Marissa Meyer tried to make it sound like company has turned a corner, today’s report really doesn’t back that up. This is the best first quarter since 2010. Check. Yahoo’s first Q1 with year-over-year growth in display revenue ex-TAC since 2011. Check. Those kinds of metrics are buried in every earnings report from every company. How will they affect the business?

Yahoo’s Meyer said:

Q1 was an early and important sign of growth in our core business. And, with mobile pivotal to our future growth, we’re delighted to now see more than 430 million monthly mobile users accessing Yahoo’s new products.

Among the financial highlights: first quarter display revenue was up 2% on an ex-TAC basis; the number of ads sold was up 7% and the price per ad was up 5%; search revenue was up 9% on an ex-TAC basis; paid clicks were up about 6%; and price-per-click was up about 8%.

But here’s the kicker: Yahoo’s CFO said the company has repurchased $6 billion in stock since the beginning of 2012, including $450 million in the first quarter of 2014. Yahoo is holding onto shareholders with its share buybacks and promises to do more of the same: “We continue to focus on repurchasing shares.”

The inference investors can draw from this is that the profit that Yahoo realizes from the sale of shares in Alibaba’s coming IPO will in large part head directly to shareholders pockets. Since the company’s stake in Alibaba could be worth as much as $36 billion, that’s a lot of reasons to love Yahoo stock.

Investors sure love the stock this afternoon. Shares are up about 8.2% in after-hours trading Tuesday, at $37.01 in a 52-week range of $22.70 to $41.72. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $40.75 before today’s results were announced.