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.”