Microsoft will take $6 billion write-down for online services division

Microsoft said its acquisition of aQuantive hasn't accelerated growth as much as it hoped

Microsoft will take a US$6.2 billion goodwill charge this quarter to recognize that its online services business won't grow as quickly as it had forecast, the company announced Monday.

Microsoft will book the pre-tax charge for so-called impairment of goodwill, related mostly to its 2007 acquisition of online marketing company aQuantive, it said.

Microsoft bought aQuantive in 2007 for just over $6.3 billion to improve its online advertising business. At the time it was Microsoft's biggest deal ever, though it has since bought Skype for $8.5 billion.

In an acquisition, goodwill reflects the value of intangible assets that can contribute to future growth, such as a strong brand or good customer relations. The write-down shows that Microsoft no longer values the aQuantive assets as highly.

"While the aQuantive acquisition continues to provide tools for Microsoft's online advertising efforts, the acquisition did not accelerate growth to the degree anticipated, contributing to the write down," Microsoft said.

Parts of its online services business have been doing better, Microsoft noted. Bing's search share in the U.S. has been expanding and revenue per search growing, it said.

"While the Online Services Division business has been improving, the company's expectations for future growth and profitability are lower than previous estimates," Microsoft said in a statement.

It said the non-cash write-down would not affect its "ongoing business or financial performance."

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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