A top Verizon executive was unable to confirm if the operator’s planned $4.83 billion acquisition of Yahoo would go ahead, due to ongoing investigations into security breaches of the internet platform.
Marni Walden (pictured), EVP and president of product innovation and new business at Verizon, told investors at Citi’s 2017 Internet, Media and Telecommunications event in Las Vegas the company was still examining the specifics of Yahoo’s past security issues. As a result, she was unable to commit either way as to whether the deal was likely to go ahead or not.
Yahoo released a statement last month revealing the details of a 2013 data breach affecting over 1 billion user accounts. The announcement came three months after the disclosure of a hack impacting 500 million accounts. At the time, the company stated the two incidents were likely unrelated.
Following the first hack, reports surfaced that Verizon was looking for a discount of $1 billion on the original deal price.
Verizon launched its bid to acquire the internet company in July last year in an attempt to strengthen its reach and, by combining Yahoo with its AOL business, increase its abilities in the advertising space.
Walden told investors the merits of the transaction were still valid, but added Verizon had a responsibility to fully investigate the breaches.
“We had the first breach, and we headed down the path to understand that to make sure we weren’t jumping blindly off a cliff,” she said. “We had that responsibility then and we have that same responsibility [today].”
When asked if she believed the transaction would go ahead, she responded: “I can’t sit here today and say with confidence one way or the other because we still don’t know. There are still things that have to be completed in the investigation – has the asset changed in any way, are there other things that will need to happen to that asset?
“With time we will have answers to those questions but we will be very responsible with what we do.”
During the investor update Walden also announced the company’s intention to accelerate its targeted advertising play through 2017 by further utilising its AOL business unit – a move held up so far by privacy concerns.
Verizon bought the platform for $4.4 billion in 2015, but reported initial attempts to cross its core user data with the AOL platform to deliver more targeted advertising were delayed by the need to ensure “privacy and transparency for customers”.
Walden said the company would “accelerate bringing data into AOL so they can use that for ad targeting, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t compromise the relationship we have with consumers.”
She added its initial results showed this type of targeted advertising yields a “significantly better result”.