Verizon Exec: "We Still Don't Know" If Yahoo Deal Will Close

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Marni Walden

Executive vp Marni Walden says an investigation into the dual hacks on Yahoo's user base are still under way, but "with time we will have answers."

Verizon is continuing to investigate two recently disclosed hacks on Yahoo's user base as it weighs how to handle the breaches in the midst of plans to acquire the internet business, says the executive leading the integration. 

Marni Walden, who serves as executive vp and president of product, innovation and new businesses at Verizon, said Thursday that there is still information that Verizon needs before it can proceed with closing its planned $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo.

"Unfortunately, I can't sit here today and say with confidence one way or another, because we still don't know," Walden told investors at the Citi Technology, Media and Telecommunications conference in Las Vegas. "There are still things that need to be completed in the investigation. With time we will have answers. We will be very responsible about what we do and will make sure we are getting the value out of the asset for our shareholders." 

In July, Verizon emerged as the buyer of Yahoo's core internet businesses after a months-long bidding process. Walden and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong were put in charge of the integration. But in the months that followed, Yahoo disclosed two large security breaches — one impacted more than 1 billion accounts. At the time, Verizon released a statement saying, "We will evaluate the situation as Yahoo continues its investigation." 

Days before the second hack was disclosed, Armstrong said at a tech conference in New York that he was "cautiously optimistic" that the deal would eventually close. He remains positive about the outcome of the deal, telling CNBC from the CES conference in Las Vegas on Thursday morning, not long before Walden spoke at Citi, that he remained "hopeful the deal will close." 

Walden said Thursday that she does not want to string out the decision. "We have to be responsible to the business. We'll take as long as we need," she said. "The goal is not to drag it out, but I have to have certain facts to make a decision." 

She also reiterated that the deal makes sense for Verizon; with the acquisition of AOL and then Yahoo, the company was hoping to scale its advertising business. "It was really about taking an audience from hundreds of millions into the billions," she added. "That still remains important to us. The merits of the transaction still make sense." 

During the talk, Walden also spoke about go90, the ad-supported mobile video app that Verizon introduced a little more than a year ago. She noted that average watch time for the app is about 30 minutes a day. "We're very encouraged by what we're seeing, but we still have a long way to go." 

Asked about how she thinks regulatory policy will change under President-elect Donald Trump, Walden said, "It's too early to tell what is going to happen with the administration, but it won't change our strategy. We have been very disciplined with our strategy." 

For Verizon, that strategy is focusing on a mobile-first consumer environment. That includes the acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo as well as smaller deals, such as buying the technology that powered Jason Kilar's Vessel and making a content play through its Complex joint venture. 

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