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Microsoft To Sell Razorfish; Publicis Groupe Possible Bidder

Despite months of denials from both companies, it looks like Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is ready to part with interactive-ad shop Razorfish, the FT reports. The software company got Razorfish when it bought its parent aQuantive for $6 billion in August 2007. Microsoft has brought in Morgan Stanley to manage the sale. Publicis Groupe is considering a bid.

According to an unidentified analyst, FT said this current deal estimates Razorfish’s price between $600 million and $700 million. The unit had $345 million in revenues in 2008 fiscal year, which ended in June last year, according to Microsoft’s 10-K.

Last August, we cited an AdAge report that said Microsoft was actively looking to jettison Razorfish and that WPP Groupe was interested buying the unit in a trade that initially valued Razorfish at around $800 million.

But as the economy worsened, WPP eventually walked away. Microsoft always had little interest in the agency side of the business that Razorfish represented. It acquired aQuantive for its ad network Atlas and the digital-marketing-solutions provider DrivePM, which it felt would help it better compete against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and DoubleClick. At this point, with Publicis sniffing around, WPP might be inspired to get back into the picture. Of the three biggest ad-agency holding companies, WPP and Publicis have been the most voracious in buying up digital firms, even as the ad business continues to suffer.

Seattle-based Razorfish employs about 2,000. In recent weeks, sources told paidContent, the company has laid off several other staffers, following the closure of two of its smallest offices last month. In April, Razorfish replaced Clark Kokich with Bob Lord as CEO after cutting 80 jobs in December.

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