Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), Marissa Mayer and the Tough Times Telecommuting: Facebook Inc (FB), Google Inc (GOOG)

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So word comes down that Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer is shooting telecommuting in the back. Mayer announced that the telecommuting culture at Yahoo wasn’t working and she was putting an end to it. Get into the office or quit.

Now, get me. I work at home. I work at home by choice. I like it. But when I was punching a clock and working for someone else I went into an office. Mayer is taking some grief, a serious amount of it, not necessarily because of the policy – though it’s possible to argue with it – but because it’s a policy instituted by a woman. The flack she’s taking is silly, and people should get over it.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO)Seriously, the thing Mayer is trying to do is nothing short of miraculous. She’s trying to take a tech firm that had fallen on very hard times – I know people who had Yahoo in their death pools – and make it ready and able to compete with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). It’s not small task she’s taken on. If that means telecommuting doesn’t work while things get straightened out, then it does.

Let’s look at the competitive environment that Mayer is confronted with, shall we?

Yahoo

Yahoo was one of the first search engines. Way back when Lycos and Magellan looked like good ideas, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) was out there promoting itself and growing fit to beat the band. The problem is the firm got complacent, had some issues with senior management and got beaten out by advancing technology. The fact is that something needed to be done to turn the corporate culture around, and this is a part of it.

From the shares side of the equation, Mayer has led a pretty charmed life so far. Since this time a year ago the firm’s shares have increased in value by more than one-third, and I think there’s more to be found there. Still, a P/E of 6.30 is betting against continuing growth. A search engine in turnaround mode that still posts an operating margin of 11.36% for 2012 is nothing to sneer at. Some money should make it’s way to Yahoo.

Google

Honestly, this company is the reason why Yahoo, Lycos and such all fell on hard times. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) reimagined the search experience and made itself a common noun. Not a small thing in an environment that’s supposed to be fast-moving. The company subsequently moved into advertising, news aggregation and even social media.

The stock is famously expensive. Not Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) expensive, but it’s floating right under $800 per share right now. And it’s not sitting there. Since last just it’s grown from $560.70 to $790.13. I think most of us could live with that rate of return in seven or so months. Heck, even at that price the P/E is a not-outrageous 24.33, and EPS is a good $32.47. There’s still love and value to be had at Google if you can afford it.

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