A new report released Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal indicates that Microsoft expressed interest in acquiring Facebook, the second largest social network, painting a more interesting picture of the waning talks with Yahoo. Microsoft already owns a $240M USD, 1.6 percent stake in the company. A full acquisition could be valued at $15B USD or more.
According to the reporter, Microsoft's bankers subtly inquired about Facebook's interest in a possible full acquisition. The talks were first made public by All Things Digital, a website owned by publisher Dow Jones, which also owns the Wall Street Journal.
Microsoft's spokespeople did not make themselves immediately available for comment on the report. Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker also refused comments.
The report indicates that no current talks are going on between the two companies, as apparently Microsoft was rebuffed. Facebook is one of the hottest internet properties, founded in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg. The site has over 70 million registered users and boasts high site loyalty and traffic volume. Zuckerberg in the past has opposed selling the whole company, working instead to develop partnerships and move toward an initial public offering.
It is unclear exactly where the comments fall in the chronology of Microsoft's online dealings, but it appears that they were made before Gates comments on Wednesday. Perhaps Microsoft only decided to go it alone after being rejected by Facebook, if the reports are to be believed.
Following the alleged Facebook declination, Microsoft has been jokingly dubbing its new online efforts "Project Granola" according to news sources and is focusing on "organic" moves, hence the humorous title. "Organic" efforts apparently consist of one more certain objective -- increasing investment in marketing, technology and research -- and one more uncertain effort, developing partnerships.
While Microsoft is no longer eyeing any acquisition targets officially, Gates comments indicated interest in additional partnerships similar to the current one with Facebook. While Gates clearly stated that Microsoft will increase spending internally for online efforts, many analysts remain skeptical, as Microsoft has already spent billions, yielding little gain on competitor Google.
Writes Cara Swisher of All Things Digital on the Microsoft's internal online plans, "Of course, that plan has not worked out so well as yet for the software giant, with Microsoft spending billions of dollars with no profits and little gain in online search or ad market share, while its archrival Google keeps growing stronger."
The moves by Microsoft, both with Yahoo and Facebook, represent a clear sentiment from Microsoft that it is desperate to find a way to counter Google's success in the online arena. Gates says that the answer for Microsoft, having been unable to find an acceptable partnership is to go back to the drawing board with a series of company meetings, focusing on internal efforts. However, it'd be surprising to not see Microsoft not make any bigger moves in the long run after it has been in such a merger frenzy the last couple months.