Microsoft Considers Debt Offering — Microsoft is considering selling bonds for the first time in its history, Bloomberg reports, a curious move considering the software giant’s $20 billion cash hoard. An SEC filing noted that the company is now free to issue debt at any time. What does Microsoft need to raise capital for? Silicon Alley Insider reminds us that the software giant sought to at least partially pay for a Yahoo acquisition by issuing debt. Of course, that deal fell apart, leaving no obvious reason as to why the company would continue with the registration process. Is Microsoft preparing another bid for Yahoo? Not if you’ve been listening to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently. Maybe Microsoft wants to buy Salesforce.com or Facebook, or maybe both? SAI thinks the company is most likely preparing a massive stock repurchasing program. At $17.53 per share, or 9 times trailing earnings, Microsoft thinks its stock is undervalued. Brad Lutz, vice president of investment research at Declaration Management & Research LLC, says a bond offering from Microsoft would be in high demand among investors, who are anxious to find sound investments outside the realm of finance. “Non-financials have generally received a warm reception by the investment-grade capital markets,” Lutz said. “There’s certainly demand for higher-quality issuers.”
Vivendi CEO: No Decision Yet On Whether To Sell Stake In NBCU; GE’s Immelt: ‘Would Buy In Heartbeat’ — Vivendi SA has yet to decide whether it will keep its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal or exercise its annual option to sell, CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told analysts at a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona today. According to Bloomberg, Levy said: “Right now, considering the general expectations for the value of the assets, the dividend flow we get from NBCU is very good. … We will have to make a decision to optimize the proceeds that we get from NBC Universal (NYSE: GE). We will probably find a better allocation of assets at the right time, in the right environment.’’ This may not be the time given NBCU’s decent performance in a rough environment but he left the window wide open: “We will have to make the decision in the next two to three weeks, so you will hear about it shortly.’’ The deadline is in early December. Vivendi has an annual option through 2016 to call for an IPO to sell the stake; GE has the right to pre-empt that by buying it. Immelt told Bloomberg earlier this week that GE would do just that: “They have been a terrific partner. I’m not anxious to do it because they have been a good partner, but I would do it in a heartbeat.’’
Yahoo Remains In Talks With Time Warner About Buying AOL — Yahoo, the Sunnyvale, California Internet company, remains in talks about buying Time Warner’s (NYSE:TWX) AOL unit, reported the Boston Globe. The report, citing a newswire, reported people familiar with the matter said executives from both companies have met in the past few weeks and are negotiating over a deal. Time Warner would give Yahoo AOL’s advertising business in exchange for a stake in the combined company, according to the report. The report noted that differences between both sides still exist. Yahoo has a market capitalization of USD 12.4bn. Source: mergermarket.
Q3 Online Ad Revs Rise 11 Percent—Less Than Half Q307 Growth Rate: IAB — Considering the economic meltdown of the past few weeks, the fact that online ad revenues grew 11 percent in Q3 would seem to be reason to celebrate. But comparing the latest figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau to its Q307 report shows how much growth has slowed. While online ad spending approached $5.9 billion this past quarter, in Q307, when the IAB said revenues hit $5.2 billion, it had gained 25.3 percent over the prior year. Although online ad dollars had already been slowing last year consider the difference from Q306, when web-based advertising was up 33 percent. Flat revenues: Compared to the other two quarters this year, online ad spending is dead flat, said the report, which the IAB partnered with PriceWaterhouseCoopers on. For example, in Q2, online ad dollars climbed 12.8 percent. Looking at the first nine months of the year at least, revenues totaled $17.3 billion, up from $15.2 billion in the same period a year ago, for a 13.8 percent gain. Again, for the sake of perspective, in Q307, the IAB reported that the first nine months of the year grew 26 percent year-over-year.
Google Unveils Search Personalization Tools — Google on Thursday unveiled new personalization tools that allow users to re-rank and edit search results. The SearchWiki tools let anyone logged into a Google account move results up or down, delete them entirely, or add personal notes through markers that appear next to each entry. The changes do not affect anyone else’s search experience, although users can click a separate link to see a view that reflects changes made by other SearchWiki users. Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of search products and user experience, tells The Wall Street Journal that the tools are particularly useful for searches that users do repeatedly. Someone who frequently searches for medical reference materials, for example, would be able to eliminate results they haven’t found useful in the past.
As Economy Slows, Facebook Hits The Accelerator — As the economic outlook worsens, most Silicon Valley tech startups are cutting costs, but not Facebook, says BusinessWeek. The social networking giant is pressing ahead with aggressive plans for growth. As Facebook investor and board member Peter Thiel says, “This is not the time for tech companies to be cutting back; this is the time to be hitting the accelerator.” What does that mean, exactly? According to the report, Facebook will continue to go to great lengths to keep user growth high in tough times. This means hiring aggressively, hitting the M&A trail (possibly), and continuing to roll out new ad platforms. Despite the site’s growing development costs, engineers are working on versions in languages like Xhosa, Tagalong and French Canadian to corner niche audiences. “We’re in this game not just for five or 10 years,” says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “We’re in it for 20 to 30 years.”