(Bloomberg) LinkedIn Corp., a major source of B2B social media marketing, is about to get a rich new parent in Microsoft Corp. Microsoft said today it will buy LinkedIn in a deal valued at $26.2 billion.
The deal, in which Microsoft will pay $196 per share in an all-cash transaction, is a 49.5 percent premium to LinkedIn’s closing price on Friday. LinkedIn will retain its brand, culture and independence and Jeff Weiner will remain chief executive officer of the company, Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft will work with LinkedIn to help it grow as a social media resource for businesses and individuals worldwide. “The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” he said. “Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.” Office 365 is Microsoft’s suite of business software tools, including Outlook e-mail; Dynamics is its enterprise resource planning software that companies use to manage such operations as inventory levels, financial records and customer activity.
LinkedIn has become known as a major resource for business-to-business marketing and professional recruitment. Edmund Optics Inc., a manufacturer of industrial optics for scientific, biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, was recognized for its work in using LinkedIn for marketing as a finalist in last week’s Internet Retailer Excellence Awards in the B2B marketing category. Linked has also been cited in recent years as becoming more widely used by B2B marketers.
“Just as we have changed the way the world connects to opportunity, this relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network, now gives us a chance to also change the way the world works,” Weiner said. “For the last 13 years, we’ve been uniquely positioned to connect professionals to make them more productive and successful, and I’m looking forward to leading our team through the next chapter of our story.”
“This is about the coming together of the leading professional cloud and the leading professional network,” Nadella said in an interview Monday. “This is the logical next step to take. We believe we can accelerate that by making LinkedIn the social fabric for all of Office.”
The deal is the biggest ever for Microsoft as Nadella, 48, focuses on appealing to business customers with cloud-based services and productivity tools rather than regular customers. In a presentation announcing the deal, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft outlined a vision in which a person’s LinkedIn profile resides at the middle of other pieces of their work life, connecting with Windows, Outlook, Excel, PowerPower, Skype and other Microsoft products.
Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana could provide users with information pulled from LinkedIn about participants in an upcoming meeting, for example, while a LinkedIn newsfeed will serve up articles based on projects that users are working on. Other products could include a kind of consulting service that will suggest an “expert” who might be able to help with a given project.
Microsoft could build LinkedIn, the largest global professional network, into a major customer relationship management software system for salespeople, pushing into an area dominated by Salesforce.com Inc., said Anurag Rana, a senior analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.
“LinkedIn could really become a really big competitor for Salesforce going forward,” he said.
Salesforce.com, meanwhile, recently made a move into e-commerce technology by agreeing to acquire Demandware Inc., a leading cloud-based e-commerce technology provider to large consumer goods brands and retailers.
LinkedIn shares surged 47 percent to $193.01 at 10:16 a.m. in New York, their biggest intraday advance since 2011. They had declined 42 percent this year through Friday as investors began to question the company’s long-term prospects. Microsoft fell 3 percent to $49.92. Twitter Inc. jumped as much as 9.1 percent amid speculation that it could be in play as well. Twitter was trading up 6.9 percent to $14.98 at 10:54 a.m.
LinkedIn has long been valued for having the potential viral growth of a social network with the recurring revenues of a software-as-a-service business. But recently, growth has started to slow and it’s been more difficult to get people to return to the site and pay for services. The company has been rethinking its strategy, redesigning its suite of mobile applications to make the product easier to use. Combining with Microsoft would give LinkedIn a boost in members with reasons to visit, making it more useful if people are sharing updates more frequently.
Microsoft started talking with LinkedIn about a possible deal in January, Nadella said. That’s right before LinkedIn reported a lower-than-expected revenue forecast that caused its stock to fall more than 40 percent in a day. The talks got serious once Nadella mentioned his vision for the structure, telling Weiner that LinkedIn could continue to operate independently, like Facebook’s WhatsApp or Google’s YouTube, Weiner said.
“In that very first meeting, we both got excited as we were brainstorming and riffing a bit about the things we could do in combination, combining the world’s professional network and the world’s professional cloud,” Weiner said in an interview Monday.
The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both LinkedIn and Microsoft. The deal is expected to close this calendar year and is subject to approval by LinkedIn’s shareholders, the satisfaction of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, Microsoft said.
Microsoft and LinkedIn will host a conference call with investors today at 8:45 a.m. Pacific Time; the call will be available via webcast at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor.
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