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Microsoft's Chase After Google Reverberates

The $6 Billion Aquanta Acquisition, When Broken Down, Still Astounds

Microsoft, supposedly thwarted in previous bids for other Google-adjusting properties, is paying $6 billion cash for aQuantive, a 10-year-old publicly held Internet ad company that could be said to have been relatively unknown when Microsoft announced that it was paying an outlandish 85% premium to buy it to compete against Google.

Six billion is more money than Microsoft ever paid for anything. It said the price was bid up by competition, but provided no color. It claimed that "it's exactly the right company to buy, and hence we're willing to pay." Microsoft has $28 billion in the bank. Microsoft is outspending Google, which said it would pay $3.1 billion for DoubleClick last month (unless it's stopped by Microsoft-inspired regulators).

Microsoft also supposedly bid for DoubleClick and was reportedly willing to pay a billion dollars for 24/7, which London ad agency WPP took out last week for $649 million. Yahoo is buying Right Media for $680 million and is rumored to be interested in the British social networking site Bebo, a miniature MySpace.

The pundits haven't given up on the idea that Microsoft could still buy Yahoo. Goldman Sachs, for one, thinks the aQuantive deal increases the odds of such a thing happening because Yahoo is the missing piece of the puzzle that Microsoft needs to go up against Google. The alternative, they say, would mean picking up a cluster of smaller companies - and if you listen to Microsoft right now that's what'll happen.

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