Microsoft is buying the business-focused social network LinkedIn for $26.2bn (£18.5bn) in cash.
The agreed deal – at $196 per LinkedIn share – was announced by both companies before the market opened on Wall Street, sending the shares up 49%.
Microsoft said that after the acquisition, LinkedIn will “retain its distinct brand, culture and independence”. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s chief executive, said the deal “gives us a chance to change the way the world works”.
LinkedIn has 430 million members, which means the deal values each one at more than $60. The network was founded in 2002 and launched in 2003. It floated In New York in 2011 with a value at the time of $4.25bn.
The acquisition comes after a huge reversal of fortune for LinkedIn. In February this year, the shares plunged 43% on the New York Stock Exchange, after the business network admitted a disappointing profit outlook. The price collapse wiped $11bn off the value of LinkedIn in a single day, which left its share price down at a three-year low of $101.
If the deal with Microsoft goes through as planned, Jeff Weiner, who joined LinkedIn in 2008 as the company’s president before becoming chief executive later that year, will stay on in his current role, reporting directly to Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.
In a statement, Nadella hinted at the competitive advantage he expects the network to provide for Microsoft. He said LinkedIn would pair well with the company’s business-focused software such as Office and customer relationship manager Dynamics.
“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” he said. “Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organisation on the planet.”
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s co-founder and controlling shareholder, described the deal as “a re-founding moment” for the company. Weiner added that the “relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network … gives us a chance to change the way the world works.”
The deal, which has already been approved by the two companies’ boards, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.