Microsoft has approached five of the world's biggest advertising companies about buying its digital advertising agency Razorfish, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
The newspaper, citing "executives familiar with the situation," said the deal could include using Microsoft's advertising technologies and possibly buying hundreds of millions of dollars of ad space across its Web properties.
It said WPP, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe have expressed interest in Razorfish and were considering a more extensive commercial relationship with the Redmond, Washington-based US software giant.
Microsoft, which has hired Morgan Stanley to shop Razorfish, has also been in contact with Interpublic Group and Dentsu, the Journal said.
The newspaper said the move is the latest bid by Microsoft to compete with Google in the advertising market.
Razorfish has some 2,000 employees and had 400 million dollars in revenue last year. It clients include Best Buy, Mercedes-Benz USA and Mattel.
The Journal said a buyer could use Microsoft's digital ad services or buy ad space across Microsoft's digital properties such as its new search engine Bing, websites, the Zune music player and the Xbox gaming console.
The newspaper cautioned that "talks are preliminary and that any deal isn't likely to happen for at least a couple of months."
It said the price could range widely, from as low as 400 million dollars to "hundreds of millions of dollars more, depending on the technology or ad-buying commitments included in the deal."
Like other ad agencies, Razorfish has been hit by the economic downturn, laying off employees and closing offices this year, the Journal noted.
Microsoft acquired Seattle-based Razorfish two years ago as part of its six billion dollar purchase of digital marketing concern aQuantive.
(c) 2009 AFP
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