Facebook Said to Be in Talks to Buy Microsoft’s Atlas Ad Product

Facebook Inc. is in talks to purchase Microsoft Corp.’s Atlas Web advertising-placement service, a person familiar with the matter said, a deal that would step up Facebook’s rivalry with Google Inc. in the online-ad market.

Microsoft, seeking to sell assets from its $6.3 billion acquisition of AQuantive Inc., is unlikely to get more than a price in the tens of millions, according to another person, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Microsoft wrote down almost the entire value of the 2007 AQuantive deal earlier this year.

Atlas’s tools help companies choose and place ads on websites and monitor their effectiveness. Facebook, the biggest social network, may be looking to bolster its challenge to search leader Google, which gained ad-serving technology with its $3.2 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in 2008. At stake is an online display-advertising market that is expected to reach $32.8 billion this year, up 19 percent from 2011, according to ZenithOptimedia.

AllThingsD reported the talks earlier today.

Brandon McCormick, a spokesman for Facebook, declined to comment. Microsoft declined to comment in an e-mailed statement.

Microsoft has focused more of its attention and funds on building its search-based advertising business, at the expense of the graphical-display ad business that includes Atlas and the AQuantive assets. At the same time, Microsoft would benefit from increased display-ad competition for Google, making a sale to Facebook -- a Microsoft partner -- a good option, said one of the people.

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