IN A surprise, multibillion-dollar deal, Microsoft officially added LinkedIn to its business network overnight.
The Washington-based software giant paid more than $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn, a social network aimed at business people, which counts more than 433 million members worldwide.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said the network had built a “fantastic business centred on connecting the world’s professionals” that could be used to boost Microsoft’s business-focused software.
“Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organisation on the planet,” he said in a statement.
LinkedIn’s chief executive, Jeff Weiner, will remain in charge of the company that will operate independently of its new parent.
The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and LinkedIn co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman said the board would support the move, calling it “a re-founding moment for LinkedIn”.
The social network grew its number of visiting users by just nine per cent over the past year, and increased its user base by 19 per cent. Its shares have halved in price, from $260 last spring to $US131 last week.
LinkedIn shares shot up in value by more than 47 per cent after news of the deal broke, however.
LinkedIn is Microsoft’s biggest acquisition since it paid $7.2 billion for Finnish mobile phone firm Nokia in 2013.
Other major purchases have included social networking tool Yammer in 2012, and videoconferencing service Skype in 2011.
Microsoft also attempted to buy online portal Yahoo in 2008, and has been rumoured to be considering a second attempt now the company is actively seeking bidders.