Microsoft goes shopping in Europe, comes back with lovely chain

Looking to bolster its search and e-commerce presence across the pond, Microsoft is taking a little bit of the money it saved buy not buying Yahoo and using it to acquire Greenfield Online, an online market research and surveys company. Actually, Greenfield is just the box holding what Microsoft really wants — the network of Ciao comparison shopping and consumer review sites, which operate in seven European countries and draw more than 26.5 million unique visitors per month, according to Comscore. As of the most recent quarter, Ciao was bringing in less than a third of Greenfield’s revenue but more than half of its operating income. Microsoft will pay about $486 million for the whole shebang, and then plans a quick selloff of everything but the Ciao properties, which will be tucked into Live Search.

In the overall European search market, Microsoft is barely a blip, holding a 2 percent share to Google’s 79 percent. But in the European comparison-shopping niche, the Ciao sites are tops, with just over 30 percent of the market, while Google Product Search, currently English-only, is well down the list, with a 2.5 percent share.

 
 

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