Even though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters many times that he intends to sell his popular site only when the time is right for an initial public offering—which could me several years away—Microsoft’s bankers are still putting out "subtle signals" to Facebook, according to a report from AllThingsD.com.
Microsoft’s deal-makers may have some time on their hands now that the Yahoo! acquisition bid has been dropped, seemingly for good. It is the perfect time to return to an old flame like Facebook. Microsoft has a deeply-ingrained habit of not giving up, which worked to the company’s advantage in the operating system wars of the 1980s and the Internet browser wars of the 1990s. Microsoft also thinks it can win the social networking wars eventually, although it did think the same of the search war. The repetitive subtle hints from Microsoft bankers still continue to trickle in case Facebook ever agrees to a full buyout. With enough nudging, perhaps Facebook will cave.
Or, Facebook could throw Microsoft a bit more ownership stake. Microsoft already invested $240 million in Facebook in October 2007 for 1.6% of the company. If Microsoft can’t buy Facebook outright, the more stake it has, the more money it will recoup from its investment when Facebook eventually does sell itself to the public markets a few years from now. It was Microsoft’s $240 million cash-infusion in October that allowed bankers to do the math that puts Facebook’s valuation at nearly $15 billion dollars. It also confirmed Microsoft’s position as Facebook’s international advertising partner.
Since the company became a hot topic, Facebook was rumored to be hooking up with all sorts of Internet companies including Google, Yahoo! and Viacom. But Microsoft is the only big corporation to work something out with Facebook. It started with a deal in August 2006 for Microsoft to provide $200 million in advertising revenues to Facebook. That was a coup because Microsoft’s ad services are seen as weaker compared to Google’s and Yahoo!’s.
Every time Microsoft strikes a deal with Facebook, it creates positive buzz for the veteran tech company. Being associated with a hip and trendy company like Facebook makes Microsoft seem "with it." So, for now, it does Microsoft good to keep hinting, or should we say "poking," at Facebook.