Bubble: Microsoft buys small stake in Facebook

Oct 24, Seattle:

  • Microsoft beat Google on Wednesday to invest in social Web site Facebook, agreeing to pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the Web phenomenon – thereby valuing Facebook at $15 billion (!)
    • Our thoughts: Is Facebook 10 times the value of YouTube (which definitely is growing as the largest media and information sharing community online)? This looks more like wanting to stay in the “online social-site play” than business value. Microsoft will of course like to believe otherwise because they have already bought it.
    • Microsoft is quoting the 50 million users of today (and projected 300 million in 2-3 years) as the source of value. With $240m, you can create similar user communities on CNN and BBC – potentially getting over 100 million on its own – and with majority stake. Wonder if these alternatives were explored at all.
  • Microsoft also got exclusive rights to sell ads on Facebook outside of the US as part of the investment (60% of Facebook users are outside US)
    • This is the real benefit. Its similar to how Google bought ad rights for MySpace for $900 million in August last year. Now MySpace was supposed to have 100 million users, but analysis revealed 43 million. Along similar lines, its possible that Facebook has about 25 million real users (or about 15 million non-US users).
    • MSN Ad Network (similar to Google’s ad network) will benefit with a captive demand – and will keep MSN Ad Network alive (maybe this was the real thought behind the deal – and also the reason why Google didn’t push it hard – as they already have what Micorsoft wanted most). Without considering any additional deals by Microsoft into Facbook, it will need $120 million of ad sales to break-even on this investment. We’ll keep an eye on this.
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