Yahoo profit beats Wall St., some analysts worry over effect of hack

Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:48pm EDT
 
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By Deborah M. Todd

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly adjusted profit on Tuesday, a boost for the beleaguered company whose deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc has been shaken by a massive data breach.

Verizon's general counsel said last week that the hack, which affected at least 500 million email accounts in 2014, could have a material impact, possibly allowing Verizon to withdraw from the $4.83 billion deal.

Tuesday's results provided at least an initial indication that the data breach has not led to a quick exodus of Yahoo customers, as some had feared. Customer trends showed growth in pageviews and email usage, Yahoo said.

Still, analysts were split on whether the results dispelled doubts about the deal going through. Yahoo said in a filing with securities regulators shortly before the breach was disclosed that it knew of no cyber risks, raising questions about whether Verizon was informed of the breach in a timely fashion.

JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey said it was too early to tell if the breach would cause lasting damage, and called customer trends "encouraging."

"The message here is email and messaging is a very sticky product and people want to get to their messages," said Josey.

But Fatemeh Khatibloo, a security analyst with Forrester Research, said the uptick in pageviews and email usage could be the result of "500 million people trying to figure out if they're exposed."

Any loss of users in the future, lawsuits related to the breach and a pending Federal Communications Commission vote that could limit how telecommunications companies can use customer data may encourage Verizon to try and back out of the deal, said Khatibloo.   Continued...

 
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer delivers her keynote address at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in this January 7, 2014, file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files