Microsoft Invests in Facebook, Extends Ad Partnership

After all the recent speculation that Facebook will create the next G,Y,M bidding war that will put the Right Media and DoubleClick deals to shame, news just hit the wires that Microsoft will be the one to invest in (not acquire) the social network.

This will come in the form of a $240 million equity stake, effective in Facebook’s next financing round. At a $15 billion valuation, this gives Microsoft a 1.6 percent stake in the company and allows Facebook to continue its world domination unfettered. This seems to be its goal, in turning down a reported $1 billion from Yahoo! last month, and its resolve in maintaining an independent strategy.

This deal also makes Microsoft the exclusive advertising provider in the Facebook network internationally. Little detail was provided in the press release, but this will grant international exclusivity to the previous arrangement between the two companies, which brought banner advertising to Facebook, via MSFT AdCenter. An analyst call is coming up at 2 p.m. PDT and more will be made clear. Stay tuned.

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Update: On the analyst call there were lots of good questions but not a lot of detailed answers about where else the relationship could develop in each company’s respective operations. The call was led by Owen Van Natta, Facebook’s VP of operations and chief revenue officer, and Kevin Johnson, Microsoft’s platforms and services division president.

No indication yet of reciprocity of Facebook content finding its way to Microsoft Live products or social initiatives. And not a lot of detail around the types of ads or targeting methods Microsoft will employ within Facebook, although it appears now to be display only.

In reality the partnership isn’t that groundbreaking; it is more of a geographical expansion to an existing ad distribution deal, as noted above. Although this is notable, as about 60 percent of Facebook’s nearly 50 million registered users are outside the U.S., and the deal could evolve into more than just ad placements. But both companies were very tight-lipped about what, how or when (of even “if”).

The deepest level of detail given was around some of the things Facebook plans to do with the money, including mostly staffing more programmers and reaching a head-count goal of 700 employees by year-end.

More important is the Microsoft investment part of the announcement that seems to preclude investments from other search giants or an IPO in the near future. There was a short a vague mention in the press release of an upcoming funding round, but again, no detail about what, when or who else is involved.

For the rest of the effects of this deal, we’ll have to wait to see it play out, and continue to extrapolate possibilities on our own. More later.

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