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Microsoft considers buying banknote printing outfit

Death of satire imminent as company gears-up to integrate money. Real money...

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Microsoft is planning a bid for the international banknote printing outfit De La Rue, according to a report in yesterday's Sunday Times. Such a move would transcend satire: Gates in move to secure supply chain? Microsoft to challenge Intuit through integration of Money? Sorry, we give up. But although the scheme might on the surface seem predatory to an extreme, there's a great deal of logic to the plan as reported, and Microsoft might be able to package it in such as way as to avoid clashes with regulators. De La Rue may have a licence (in around 150 countries) to print money, but it's had financial problems recently, and its share price has collapsed, so it's cheap. Microsoft also doesn't want the whole of the company, but is said to be planning a break-up, holding on to a couple of key areas for itself. De La Rue produces certificates of authenticity for Microsoft's software packages, and as part of its own diversification programme has been getting into smart cards and associated software. Microsoft doesn't want to print money (there's no need - trucks of it arrive daily, and anyway physical money is going to go into decline fairly soon. It does want to establish key standards and technologies for the electronic and card-based systems that will start to replace it, and its acquisitions strategy is going to have to reflect that. De La Rue therefore looks like a good, not too threatening place to start. Compare and contrast with what would happen if Microsoft decided it wanted, say, a 20 per cent stake in Mastercard. ® Click for more stories

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