Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's failure to seal the purchase of Yahoo; whose market capitalization has plummeted; has saved the Redmond software maker from a writedown that could have rivaled the industry's most vilified deals.

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Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said he was disappointed Yahoo refused a takeover offer that went as high as $47.5 billion back in May. Now he looks lucky.

Yahoo closed Monday with a market value of $18.7 billion, so Ballmer’s failure to seal the purchase saved the biggest software maker from a writedown that could have rivaled the industry’s most vilified deals. Yahoo ended Monday at $13.49 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Ballmer “might be the luckiest guy in the software industry,” said analyst Charles Di Bona at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. “One of the guys here just looked at Yahoo’s share price and said to me, ‘Nice miss by Microsoft.”‘

In addition to escaping the financial blow, the 52-year-old CEO saved himself some goodwill from shareholders. Microsoft first offered $31 a share for Yahoo, the No. 2 Internet search engine operator, and went as high as $33 in last-ditch talks with Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang — price investors like Kim Caughey at Fort Pitt Capital Group decried as too high at the time.

“People would have been pretty ticked off if they had done a deal at $33 and then had to write down a large portion of it almost immediately,” said Caughey, whose Pittsburgh-based firm owns Microsoft shares.

The combination could have triggered one of the technology industry’s biggest acquisition-related charges. The $124 billion combination of Time Warner and America Online in 2001 caused $100 billion in writedowns. This year, Sprint Nextel wrote down $29.7 billion of the $36 billion purchase of Nextel Communications and related companies.

Yahoo spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler didn’t return calls seeking comment on the stock’s decline.

Di Bona also credited Ballmer’s unwillingness to “do the deal at all costs” for saving Microsoft from overpaying. When he scrapped the bid May 3, Ballmer said Yang had demanded $37.