Why Microsoft has paid too much for LinkedIn

With LinkedIn making losses of $166m and its share price down by 40%, just what has Microsoft got for its $26.2bn?

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2016

Formative years

Founded in February 2002 as a business-oriented social network, LinkedIn even predates its all-conquering 'leisure time' oppo Facebook by a couple of years. The online CV library's key architect was the progressively educated intellectual Reid Hoffman, who farmed maple syrup and drove oxen at school before collecting a BSc from Stanford University - and an MA from Oxford as a Marshall Scholar. Like fellow Silicon Valley royalty Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, he was a co-founder of PayPal, whose sale for $1.5bn to eBay provided Hoffman with the financial clout to match his brainpower. By 2006, LinkedIn became the first major social network to turn a profit.

Recent history

Fast forward to early this year and LinkedIn has persuaded over 400m people to 'connect' with fellow professionals and is generating almost $3bn in sales, much of it from recruiters paying for advanced functionality. But those profits are long gone, replaced by losses climbing to $166m and a share price, which has crashed by 40% thanks to stalled growth, increasingly disenchanted users, and hackers selling over 100m stolen LinkedIn email addresses.

What better time for the traditional saviour of yesterday's tech heroes, Microsoft, to rock up with a $26.2bn all-cash offer to buy the business? That's $250 for each of the 100 million or so people who use it at least monthly, or 79 x EBITDA. Either way it's too much.

Read more: Memo to Microsoft: Buying LinkedIn won't change the world

Who's in charge?

LinkedIn's CEO - ex-Warner and Yahoo exec Jeff Weiner - is to remain. But as LinkedIn's slogan reminds us, Relationships Matter, and with a background in media some question how he will get along with his new techie bosses. Meanwhile chairman Hoffman will trouser $1.9bn from his 10% stake. And you thought LinkedIn was boring.

Don't mention

The goose that lays the golden egg. Microsoft has a long and unhappy track record - Yammer, Nokia, arguably Skype - of repeatedly wringing the poor bird's neck. Sceptics predict that it will turn LinkedIn's database into a giant CRM system and quickly spam its biggest ever buy into oblivion.

Vital statistics

Income: $2.99bn
Loss: $166m
Employees: 9,732

Figures: FY 2015

Photo credit: Nan Palmero/Flickr


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