I'm still shaking my head.
What's going on here? When did Microsoft become the New York Yankees?
- Globally known? Check.
- Universally despised? Check.
- Loaded with cash? Check.
- Overspends on talent acquisitions that don't always pan out? Check.
- A few years removed from the last time it was on top? Check and mate.
The argument for raising money in this climate is that it's cheap money. That is certainly true, but it's also going to earn even less than the interest payments that Microsoft will have to make if it simply parks the bonds in low-yielding short-term paper.
In other words, now there will be pressure for Microsoft to deploy its greenbacks. Maybe it comes in the form of a gargantuan share buyback, though how sound is that? If Microsoft doesn't get its growth groove back, dividing fading profits into fewer shares outstanding is just parlor magic. The real kicker here is for Private Ryan to "earn this" by making tactical buyouts that will make the stock shiny again.
Here's my shopping list
Tim Beyers has a few buyout ideas, but I'm hoping for an entirely different bridal registry. Beyond Facebook, I don't think Microsoft has much to gain from overpaying for his three other suggestions.
It's clear that neither of us is CEO Steve Ballmer. He has more money. We have more hair. However, since Microsoft is inviting the speculative whispers by fattening its coffers to roughly $30 billion, we may as well discuss the companies that would make more sense walking down the aisle with a tuxed out Mr. Softy.
Here are the three companies that I think Microsoft should marry.
Microsoft's reluctant prom date last year is an obvious candidate. The rumor mill chatter has moved on from last year's outright buyout. The folks egging on Microhoo are now banking on a marketing and technology partnership instead. Yahoo! would sell ads across both Web empires, with Microsoft doing the technological nerd work. It's a deal that makes sense, but not as much as Microsoft buying all of Yahoo! in a deal that would transform two struggling paid search platforms into a single powerhouse.
Saying no to Microsoft cost Yahoo!'s last CEO his job. If there is a single purchase that would help Microsoft stand up to Google
Research In Motion
Microsoft blew its chance to acquire the BlackBerry maker for less than $50 per share last year. It may as well make up for lost time and chase RIM higher. It makes too much sense. Despite Apple's
If Microsoft really wants some skin in the smartphone market -- and who doesn't -- it has an uphill battle organically. The long-rumored notion that its Zune media player will evolve into a game-playing smartphone is commendable but not a needle-mover. If Zune is as successful in eating market share in wireless as it has been in portable media, it's going to go hungry. RIM -- or perhaps even settling for Palm
How sweet would China's leading search engine look in Microsoft's arsenal? It would leave the company laughing last after Google poached Kai-Fu Lee from Mr. Softy's farm club four years ago. Baidu serves up nearly two-thirds of the search queries in the world's most populous nation. Microsoft would help by beefing up any techie weaknesses at Baidu, as it builds on its market leadership position. If you think Google is holding up well in this environment, Baidu grew revenue by 41% this past quarter.
The rub here is that the Chinese government is unlikely to let a deal happen. It was a vocal critic when Microsoft made last year's unsolicited buyout bid for Yahoo!, and that was only because Yahoo! owns 40% of China's leading B2B platform in Alibaba. However, stranger things have happened. Given Baidu's recent missteps, it wouldn't hurt to try.
It's not my money
What would you do? If Microsoft pulls off its debt offering, investors are going to expect results.
One has to imagine that Microsoft has a bigger grasp of its organic shortcomings than anyone else. It knows that it will need to add new puzzle pieces to its empire as operating systems and productivity software get cheaper in a more competitive landscape with open-source and cloud-computing competition.
If Microsoft is going to need more hits, it better sign up some more Derek Jeters.
Just think about it, George Steinballmer.
Yahoo!'s snooze bar tapping:
Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is not on Microsoft's buy list, though he would like a wedding invitation. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.