WASHINGTON: US Internet giant Google is mulling a bid for rival Yahoo! and has talked to at least two private-equity firms to consider how the deal would be financed, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

“Google and prospective partners have held early-stage discussions but haven’t put together a formal proposal,” the newspaper said, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter.

The report, however, stated that Google might end up not pursuing a bid for Yahoo!, once seen as the Internet’s leading light but which has struggled to build a strongly profitable, growing business out of its global web presence.

Yahoo! has been the subject of massive interest from other companies since the sacking last month of chief executive Carol Bartz, less than three years after she was brought in to help turn around the struggling Internet firm.

The chairman of Chinese company Alibaba on Thursday said he expected an answer from Yahoo! within weeks to his long-standing offer to buy all or part of the US company, saying delays were hurting both firms.

Several other companies are also rumored to be eyeing Yahoo!, including Microsoft and US private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.