Friday, December 08, 2006

Yahoo's Panama Gives Semel Chance to Please Investors

By Jonathan Thaw

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Terry Semel, having failed to appease investors with a management reshuffle, may get a second chance next year with new ad software designed to regain ground lost to Google Inc.

Known as Project Panama, the program is slated to be fully operational by March, three months behind schedule. The software, which marketers are starting to use, emulates Google and may help Yahoo generate more revenue from each Internet search.

Yahoo is releasing the new technology to spur sales and reverse a 32 percent slide in its stock price this year. As part of that effort, Semel this week reorganized Yahoo into three units and promoted Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker to oversee ad sales. Yahoo shares fell on concern that the changes may not be enough, prompting investors to look to Panama.

``While this technology might not allow Yahoo to overtake Google, it may help narrow the gap,'' said Scott Kessler, an analyst at Standard & Poor's in New York.

Panama improves the way Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo displays Internet search ads and may generate an additional $115 million of sales in the second half of next year, Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Justin Post said in a Nov. 30 note to investors.

Shares of Yahoo fell 23 cents to $26.63 at 4 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.

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