Microsoft has signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Yahoo! which allows it to look into the media giant's books.
The Redmond, Wash.-based company joins potential buyers for the search engine and web portal, the list include: Alibaba Group, Blackstone, Silver Lake Partners, Bain Capital, Providence Equity Partners, Google, and Microsoft.
Yahoo's NDA forbids those pursuing the company from talking to other potential bidders. Microsoft may have found a way around that provision though, as it has already held discussions with some of the bidders including Silver Lake, according to the Times.
Microsoft currently has a search agreement with Yahoo! that the company is looking to maintain and if Yahoo! is acquired by another firm, you can bet that they would not be willing to break that contract.
The agreement has helped make Microsoft search a viable alternative to Google; combined Microsoft and Yahoo US search share was 30 percent in October, according to comScore. Not playing a part in where Yahoo ends up could prove detrimental to Microsoft.
The company appears to be mounting an effort to purchase Yahoo outright rather than take a minority stake. Other potential suitors will likely take that route. There are other companies also considering bids including Alibaba, which Yahoo owns a 40 percent stake in.
Microsoft, of course, had previously attempted to buy Yahoo in 2008 for $33 a share, or $47.5 billion, but Yahoo's board in its infinite wisdom decided that the offer was too low.