Digital M&A Market Gets Off To FAST Start, Microsoft Acquires Enterprise Search Firm

Coming off a record year in terms of mergers and acquisitions of digital marketing services, 2008 already looks like it could excel that pace. With Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick still pending for later this year, Microsoft this morning announced a deal to acquire Oslo, Norway-based Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), a leading provider of enterprise search solutions, in a deal valued at $1.23 billion.

The acquisition will give Microsoft a customizable online search business whose clients already include giants such as Deutsche Telekom and the United Parcel Service Inc., and gives it another wedge against chief search rival Google.

"Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly," stated Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. "Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and FAST gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs."

The deal comes less than a year after Microsoft acquired aQuantive for $6 billion, the biggest digital marketing services acquisition in what was a breath-taking year in 2007. According to a year-end report released Monday by the Jordan Edmiston Group, there were 249 marketing and interactive services related acquisitions during 2007, totaling $31.6 billion in total market value. That was by far the biggest sector in what was a $110 billion overall market in media industry M&A deals during 2007.

"The 2007 market handily exceeded 2006 with 838 transactions and nearly $110 billion in value for the year, up by 32% and 79% respectively over last year," the JEGI report notes.

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