As reported before, Microsoft has been looking to sell digital agency Razorfish, a business it acquired through its $6bn purchase of ad services holding company aQuantive in 2007.
Yesterday, it announced a deal: Publicis Groupe, the world's second largest media agency, will be buying Razorfish for $530m in cash and Publicis Groupe treasury shares.
There have been persistent questions about the fit between Microsoft and Razorfish for some time and rumors about a possible sale have circulated since 2008. The fact that Microsoft waited until 2009 to divest itself of the digital agency, whether by choice or necessity, was a costly one. In 2008, AdAge pegged Razorfish's value in the $800m range. More recently, an analyst quoted by the Financial Times dropped that to $600-$700m. The $530m price, of course, is quite a bit lower than both sets of figures.
So it's no surprise that Maurice Levy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, is probably quite satisfied with the deal. In a press release, he stated that "the combination of Razorfish's assets with the complementary expertise we already possess will be highly valuable to our clients and shareholders".
Microsoft and Publicis Groupe won't be parting ways after the deal closes. In June, the two companies announced that they'd be looking at ways to collaborate and as part of this transaction, they've signed a strategic alliance agreement:
The agreement helps Publicis Groupe media clients by allowing their agencies to purchase display and search advertising from Microsoft over the five-year term of the agreement on favorable terms, in exchange for certain minimum guaranteed aggregate purchase levels. The agreement also provides that Razorfish will continue to be a preferred provider to Microsoft for digital strategy, creative and experiential marketing services, and contains a commitment by Microsoft to spend a minimum amount for those services each year during the term of the agreement.
Whether the strategic alliance amounts to anything truly meaningful for either company remains to be seen but for those who have questioned some of the acquisitions that have taken place in this space over the years, their ability to do so might learn teach us how much ownership was overrated.
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