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Tax Concerns On Yahoo's Alibaba Stake Spinoff Prompt Target Cuts

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Wall Street analysts tempered their view on Yahoo Inc’s stock after the company’s plans for a tax-free spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd hit a snag.

The company’s shares fell 3.4 percent to $29.85 in premarket trading on Wednesday. At least eight brokerages cut their price targets on the stock, but kept their recommendations unchanged.

Yahoo said on Tuesday the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied its request for a private letter ruling (PLR) on a possible tax-free deal that could fetch it $23 billion.

PLRs are requested when a company wants to confirm if a prospective transaction could result in a tax violation.

The IRS, however, could approve or deny the tax-free status later. The spinoff is planned for later this year.

“We believe the likelihood of a positive tax outcome for the company diminishes as more time passes; this remains the core overhang on Yahoo’s valuation,” Nomura Equity Research analysts said in a research note.

Yahoo’s stock has lost more than a quarter of its value in the past year as the company struggles to revive its core online advertising business.

Still, analysts are largely positive, linking much of the company’s value to its stake in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Of the 42 analysts covering Yahoo, eight rate it a “strong buy,” 19 a “buy” and 15 a “hold.”

The IRS’s denial is “not a good sign, but there is still hope,” Barclays Capital analyst Paul Vogel said. He cut his price target by 22 percent to $35 from $45.

Piper Jaffray & Co was the most bearish on the stock, slashing its target by $22 to $32.

The stock fell about 16 percent in post-market trading immediately after the announcement but pared most of those losses.

Yahoo said it would weigh its options, including proceeding with the spinoff. But a failed deal will put more pressure on Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, whose turnaround efforts have had little effect on Yahoo’s growth.

The company may also consider other alternatives such as a spinoff of Yahoo’s core business with the company’s Alibaba and Yahoo Japan Corp stakes left behind in the current corporate structure, analysts said.