Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook today for $240,000,000. Reported at NYT here. This give a market value to Facebook of right about 15,000,000,000.
I do think Microsoft is smart (and Facebook stupid) to make the cash outlay much smaller than most had thought, giving them an alliance and a powerful foothold without spending the “billions” that apparently would have been required to buy a big stake in the internet’s latest wonder site.
With *revenues* of about 150 million Facebook is now valued at …. wait for this ….. one hundred times revenues. This is simply a spectacular and speculative valuation, even by internet standards where even a Google is only valued at about fifty times earnings. Note that if Google was valued at 100x their expected revenues over the next year their capitalization would be something in the neighborhood of 1.5 trillion dollars.
Many will suggest that the value in keeping Facebook away from Google was so great that MS has won big, but I’d predict not much will come of this alliance. Like many online regulars I’m already tiring of Facebook and looking for a completely open, portable social application. To justify today’s value Facebook will need to grow pretty much like nobody’s ever grown before. Sure, it’s possible, but I think this will go down with Google’s YouTube aquisition as good money after bad, because monetizing Facebook traffic will be far more problematic than Microsoft seems to think.
All that said, congratulations to the Facebook team who must be popping a few corks about now…. no champagne is good enough for this news.