The London Times is reporting that web portal Yahoo could start merger talks with the AOL division of Time Warner as a way of staving off a hostile takeover bid by Microsoft. Other names being tossed around as friendlier partners for Yahoo include News Corp., Google and Disney.

Yahoo is expected to reject a $44.6 billion dollar takeover bid by Microsoft. Insiders report that Yahoo is not completely against merging with the software giant provided it ups the ante considerably.

Bloomberg.com, quoting an industry analyst, reports:

"A lot of this is gamesmanship on the part of Yahoo,'' said Scott Kessler, an equity analyst at Standard & Poor's in New York who recommends holding Yahoo and buying Microsoft. "Microsoft is well aware that Yahoo doesn't have any other options. What this is about is how much Microsoft wants Yahoo and how much time they're willing to wait to get this deal done.''
Any agreed-upon merger involving Yahoo, especially with Google or Microsoft, could spark an antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice.

Sources: MarketWatch, Bloomberg.com