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Microsoft Selling Greenfield’s Surveys Unit To Paris’ Toluna, Keeps Ciao

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is selling a chunk of online surveys operator Greenfield Online to Paris-based online research panel provider Toluna for $40 million. Zelnick Media had planned to buy last September, but the deal collapsed.

Microsoft acquired the group for $486 million last year, but mainly wanted its European shopping price comparison service Ciao, which is now being integrated with Bing. As we reported at the time, Microsoft said it already had a buyer in mind for the remainder of the company. It’s been a long time coming, but now France’s Toluna confirms it’s buying Greenfield’s Internet Survey Solutions division with the intention of using Greenfield’s Wilton, CT, HQ as its base for a US expansion.

But Toluna is having to turn itself inside-out to finance the acquisition – its largest shareholder, the London-based Eurovestech fund, is selling its 13.38 percent stake to Brussels-based family private equity vehicle Verlinvest, and Taoluna is seeking has raised £28 million through a new share placing. It also expects “several million dollars of synergies”, but for the deal to enhance its earnings as soon as the 2010 calendar year.

Toluna says Greenfield will make it the “largest independent global provider of panels and technology to the market research industry”, with 11 percent global market share. Integration will begin “immediately”.

Toluna CEO Frederic-Charles Petit told me: “The part we’re buying was valued at $125 million (when Zelnick agreed to buy), but the deal failed because the finance was from Lehman Brothers (the credit crunch bit). It’s a very interesting price and we’re very happy. If you want to be a leader in this market, you need to be a leader in the US.”

Toluna already works as a vendor for market researchers TNS and GfK and its clients include easyJet, ITV (LSE: ITV), Iceland, Canal+ and British Airways; Greenfield works with research agencies. “They have very strong technology complementary to our technology. Our clients want stability within the supply chain.”

11 Responses to “Microsoft Selling Greenfield’s Surveys Unit To Paris’ Toluna, Keeps Ciao”

  1. The Toluna online panelists on the Toluna Forum in the United States are all panicking. They don’t know that there has been an acquisition but they definitely feel the changes. They are all complaining that the point system has been cut by 66% this week. Also, many of them are complaining that their points have suddenly disappeared. Surveys are being offered meekly by Toluna at 32 cents for a 25 minute survey. The infection that Greenfield has had now is effecting Toluna.

  2. Carlos

    How does this acquisition give Toluna a US presence? Word is that Greenfield has no US panel left and aggregates from other providers while turning to their river sampling. No good if you ask me.

  3. Marcus M.

    This really does not come off as a surprise. MS did right by selling off Greenfield and the quicker the better. All the Greenfield execs care about is making money for themselves and not contributing to their company or the industry. I can only hope that Toluna can turn things around right away for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

  4. Steve Sanders

    You are right Danny. I am sure they are all a bunch of clowns over there. They should change their name from Greenfield to Layoff-field because that is all that seems happen at that place.

  5. I think it starts at the top. Instead of laying off the people that do work why dont they lay off the garbage running that company for the last 3 years. Where did they get their degrees….. Clown College?

  6. Not to mention that a handful of their top execs have jumped ship along with numerous sales staff members. I wonder who is the top player now?

  7. Carrie

    A friend of mine at Greenfield told me they already had 2 waves of layoffs. This very well may be the final blow that will finish them off.