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Microsoft has signed a non-disclosure agreement allowing it to examine Yahoo’s finances as it considers participating in a buyout of the Internet company, according to a New York Times report this morning, citing an anonymous source briefed on the situation.

The Redmond company’s main goal appears to be preserving the value of its search and advertising partnership with Yahoo, according to the report. Microsoft’s Bing search engine powering Yahoo’s search results, giving Microsoft more critical mass and valuable data in its struggle to catch up to Google.

Microsoft made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo in 2008, offering nearly $45 billion as an opener, but was rebuffed by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, then the Sunnyvale, Calif., company’s chief executive. Yahoo’s market value is now less than $19 billion.

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