Mr. Softy just agreed to pay about $1.2 billion for Norwegian enterprise search specialist Fast Search and Transfer (OTC BB: FASRF.PK), a 42% premium to the previous day's closing price on the Oslo stock exchange. Microsoft plans to build a global business unit around the Trondheim-based company. CEO John Lervik tells local newspapers that he will remain in charge "for the foreseeable future, which means at least three years," and the company has recently restructured itself to make a clean, easy fit with a larger acquirer.
Don't expect a bidding war to erupt over Fast, though. Other massive, information-centric companies like Cisco
So what is Fast doing that made the Seattle giant reach for the checkbook? Business software division president Jeff Raikes explained that he could "find football scores online in five seconds, but inside somebody's company it can take five hours to track down last year's business plan." Build a top-notch content management and intranet search solution like Fast's products into the SharePoint platform, and then deliver the new beast to Microsoft clients the world over -- and presto! You have gone a long way toward solving that conundrum, on a much larger distribution scale than Fast could handle on its own.
The competition for Fast comes from mostly small operations like Convera
It's not a world-changing event for Microsoft investors, though it does open up new markets and should bring in a respectable stream of new revenue without much of the customary integration pains. Fast's restructuring helps, and the companies already have major partners like EMC
So Fast shareholders in general are happy, and quite a bit richer today than they were last week. But Fast co-founder Arne Halaas would rather have seen his baby staying uniquely Norwegian, though he stands to make millions of dollars from the sale. "What am I going to do with the money?" he asked a Norwegian newspaper. "I'm no investor, and have never really had much interest in investing."
Now there's a sentiment you don't hear too often. A round of lutefisk and akvavit in your honor, Mr. Halaas!
Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Google shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He likes lutefisk and loves akvavit. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is fresher than North Sea salmon on a crisp November afternoon.
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