Microsoft will pay $US240 million for a 1.6% stake in social networking site Facebook, valuing the company at $US15 billion.
The extraordinary price is thought to reflect Microsoft’s desperation to catch up to Google, which is emerging as the dominant player serving ads online.
Microsoft will sell the banner ads appearing on Facebook outside of the US and get a slice of the revenue. International traffic is increasingly important to Facebook: 59% of users are outside the US.
Last year, Microsoft struck a deal with Facebook to run banner ads on the site in the US until 2011.
The deal means that 23-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg is now worth $US3 billion.