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Essay: Exploring How Microsoft’s Acquisition of LinkedIn Harnessed Competitive Advantage

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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 Microsoft is a Multinational Technology company that develops and sells services, software and electronics. Some of its well-known products include Microsoft Windows, Office Suite and Xbox. The company is involved in a large range of products from hardware, software, technological services to video game consoles. They also own popular services such as Internet Explorer, Skype and Bing. This allows them to reach out to a large consumer market and meet their needs.  Microsoft’s competitive advantage consists of multiple aspects that come together to build a stronger company. Its competitive advantage includes: economies of scale, brand strength and intellectual property among many other things. Without their ability to save costs through mass production, the strong brand recognition and the company’s property, Microsoft would not be as large and powerful as it is now.

LinkedIn is a company that focused on building a social networking platform for employment and business oriented opportunities. Their market consists of professional business people employed or seeking employment. Currently LinkedIn is competing with the other social networking sites but gains the upper hand with its focus on networking among professionals. The company recently began gaining revenue through selling of potential employee information to potential recruiters. LinkedIn’s competitive advantage is the unique product they offer. It offers a professional social networking platform to build connections and further oneself in the job market. Its main advantage that it offers is the data it holds. Much of LinkedIn’s value is derived from the 433 million people that use the site commonly.

One of the external drivers for Microsoft is the involvement in an extremely competitive industry. The technological industry requires a company to be constantly improving to maintain their importance and stay successful.  Although the Microsoft Office product has maintained its dominant presence in the market for a long period, the changes in the market due to the introduction of cloud computing constantly threatens its place. The company Alphabet released products like Office which incorporates cloud computing. Their application Google App grew rapidly and established itself in the market. The product utilized a cloud server and internet to allow access to the files from any medium. Alphabet also beats Microsoft in terms of search engine with Google search.

 The companies were both not at the best state before the takeover and were hoping to change paths to continue the success. LinkedIn had recently removed all groups in the company that did not produce sufficient revenue affecting the services on the site. The company had also reduced growth in the recent years much to the disappointment of stakeholders.  The removal of certain services and lack of growth showed its impact on the stock at the end. LinkedIn’s stock had a large drop of 40% with no hopes of it returning to its original value. Further research into the companies found that the ad credited revenue was estimated to fall from 35% to 10%.   

Microsoft on the other hand was facing its own share of problems. The company was not known for having very meaningful or successful acquisitions. The company had previously attempted to enter the mobile device market through the acquisition of Nokia but faced losses and had to write it off as an investment. With Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc. both growing and innovating Microsoft had to keep up to maintain their prominent position in the industry. This had led Nadella to discuss the possibility of the acquisitions when approached by LinkedIn’s CEO.

The path to acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft was not a quick process. The process began by constant meetings between LinkedIn and potential buyers. Among Microsoft competitors for the acquisition is Facebook, Gouge and Salesforce. Google left the competition early on while Facebook declined the offer of acquiring the company. With only Salesforce and Microsoft after LinkedIn they both began a bidding war. Salesforce submits an offer of $160 same as Microsoft. After few days of discussion Salesforce and Microsoft comes in with a $171 and $172 a share offer. Salesforce offers a mixed stock and cash sales which Microsoft is planning to go through the deal all in cash. While LinkedIn’s committee was requesting the merger to go to $200 per share the other companies were not negotiating that high. Salesforce in the last attempt to place a claim over the company offers $200 a share in cash and stock. But despite this offer LinkedIn accepts Microsoft’ deal of $196 per share from Microsoft.

I believe that the merger is very profitable for both companies. Linkedin’s financial structure would not have withheld it for a longer term unless drastic changes were made. Social Networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn rely on ad driven revenue and would not be able to sustain themselves under other circumstances. Examples like Myspace come into play when discussing that. Although Facebook made and established itself using the ad driven revenue, LinkedIn had already begun to see the symptoms of a lack of a solid revenue source. As I mentioned previously the company was estimating a reduction in revenue through Ad’s. In the long-term the company would be facing large losses.

LinkedIn would also profit by being involved with Microsoft due to the name and vice versa. Microsoft maintained the name of LinkedIn because at the end of the day, the company values the importance of the brand name for the company. As Nadella said, LinkedIn will maintains its “distinct brand, culture and independence”. One of Microsoft biggest advantages is their competitive advantage due to their brand name. By incorporating LinkedIn with Microsoft while maintaining its distinct name, it provides a larger brand recognition to the customers.

This brand recognition of being involved with Microsoft will show itself in financial aspects as well. The company had experienced a large loss in stock value before the merger. This was due to many deep-rooted reasons to do with the company’s financial structure and management decisions before the acquisition.  Following the announcement of Linkedin’s takeover, the company had seen an increase of 48% in stock value. Placing them higher than they were before. The company had

Furthermore, the products and services of Microsoft and LinkedIn complement each other allowing both companies to grow in fields and services later. By maintaining LinkedIn’s name, it is establishing its brand but allowing them to incorporate Microsoft products into it. Microsoft’s Office 365, Skype and Cortana can all come into play to bettering LinkedIn and offering more services on it. Resumes can be build using Office 365 while video capabilities can be incorporated into LinkedIn providing for ease of video interviewing for the future of professional networking. LinkedIn had also acquired Lynda, an online video and tutorial company. Microsoft can provide more tutorials to the consumers of Office products to provide for ease of use.


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