Alibaba hires lobby outfit

The Chinese Alibaba Group has hired a Washington lobbying firm, which is being seen by people in the know that the outfit will make a bid for all of Yahoo if talks to unwind their Asian partnership fail.

The Duberstein Group is headed by Kenneth Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff under U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Its other clients include BP America, Goldman Sachs & Co and Pfizer.

Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, said in September he wanted to buy all of Yahoo “if the opportunity presented itself”. However he might have a few problems with Washington which may not want to see an American outfit taken over by a company from a country that controls and censors the Internet.

The US might be happier if its own Internet censorship law –  the SOPA act –  gets through, but in the meantime it can afford to be sanctimonious with China. Reuters has noted that Huawei ran into opposition when they have tried to buy US assets over the years.

It is hard to see how there could be a national security concern in Yahoo going to Alibaba.

Whatever happens with the sale of Yahoo, it is going to involve Alibaba and Softbank. The three need to untangle a complex web of relationships which has left Yahoo in charge of a company which is a lot bigger.

Yahoo’s board which has lead it to such specular successes over recent years again seems reluctant to give up control. Having turned down an overpriced deal from Microsoft, the outfit is trying to protect itself from any buyouts by selling some of the assets that Alibaba and Softbank want.

The latest plan, valued at roughly $17 billion, would reduce Yahoo’s 40 percent stake in Alibaba and get Yahoo out of Yahoo Japan.