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MS grabs medic Web site, invades Sweden

Spend, spend, spend... But Sendit's GSM technology could come in handy

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Whatever prompted Microsoft to start spending its cash (and it could have been just a whim, since the company is not noted for having much of a business plan) it is doing it with all the enthusiasm of a pig chasing truffles. Nothing is left unsniffed, it would seem. The latest truffling ground is WebMD, a subscription-based Internet site for health care professionals and consumers, which is rumoured to be a $300 million investment opportunity for which Microsoft would get a 27 per cent stake. DuPont was an initial investor when WebMD started up last October, committing $220 million over five years. The indecent haste results from WebMD going public later this month. These vertical portals already seem to show more revenue-raising potential than the broad, horizontal ones, whether they are customisable or not. After all, who would pay a subscription for a horizontal portal? Another truffle hunt is on at Sendit AB, the Swedish mobile Internet technology company that has a product somewhat like Microsoft's Hotmail. Sendit is being offered $127.5 million, which works out at around $1.24 million per employee. A particular attraction for Microsoft is that Sendit uses NT and BackOffice for its servers for a GSM network. The Sendit Board is recommending acceptance. Another rumour that surfaced in Die Zeit is that Microsoft may put $1 billion into the Deutsche Telekom cable network. DT is scheduled to sell 286 million shares next month as it ever-so-slowly privatises itself. The special interest of course would be for the CE producer to push more CE. Microsoft's midsummer madness, as we noted yesterday, gathers pace. Recent deals include: Nextel - $600 million; AT&T - $5 billion; NTL Ltd - 5 per cent of the cable company for $500 million in February; and Comcast - $1 billion. The value of the Telewest acquisition has not been disclosed: although AT&T had valued it at $3.5 billion, it is thought that MS paid much less - possibly around $2 billion. The numbers for this will likely move around if the $4 billion CWC deal goes ahead. How the regulators will view these moves remains to be seen, but if all these deals were to go through, they would easily add up to $15-20 billion. But Microsoft's cash pile continues to growing at around $2 billion/quarter. ®

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