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Greenfield Online, the parent company of Munich-based comparison shopping site Ciao, said this morning that Microsoft would spend $486 million to acquire it, derailing an earlier offer from a private equity firm to buy the company. The Ciao sites operate in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
For Microsoft, the hope is that the deal will help boost its search business overseas. After the failed bid for Yahoo, Microsoft has been reeling around like a spurned lover trying desperately to fill the gap — with cash-back rebates for search engine users — while strategically looking for markets where it has a real chance at gaining share in search.
But Europe might not be that market. According to the most recently available comScore data, Google had almost 80 percent of the European search market in March while Microsoft had close to 2 percent. However, Google’s own comparison shopping engine, Google Product Search, is currently an English-only service. With Ciao, Microsoft could take advantage of Google’s relative absence in certain languages. As of January, Ciao was the top comparison shopping engine in Europe with 30 percent of the market, while Google was 18th, with 2.5 percent. It’s an opening, but it appears to be a small one.
image courtesy of Ciao