If there is one thing Microsoft has plenty of it’s money. It proved that again tonight by agreeing to buy Greenfield Online, the parent company of Ciao, which runs various price-comparison and shopping search sites in Europe.

The $486 million dollar deal is odd for a few reasons. First, Microsoft is buying Greenfield, but selling the part of the company that it’s best known for: online market research and surveys, according to paidContent. The software giant only wants to keep the comparison shopping and opinion part of the company and apparently already has a buyer for the rest. Also odd is that this deal is $60 million higher than an offer from Quadrangle which Greenfield walked away from just last week, which paidContent also covered. The collapse of that deal led to Greenfield having to pay a $5 million termination fee.

Microsoft’s play here is apparently to become more ingrained in European consumer search and online habits. Going after more shopping traffic seems questionable considering the laughable move it made back in May to pay users to use its Live search engine to look for purchases to make. Given that Microsoft’s search share once again fell last month, it appears that strategy failed, as we thought it would.

But, Ciao’s sites do get more than 26.5 million pageviews a month and have over 5 million product reviews in its databases. That has to be worth something. Apparently, nearly a half billion dollars.

[Above: A Wordle graph of keywords in the press release.]

This marks Microsoft’s biggest purchase since its attempt to buy Internet giant Yahoo fell apart a few months ago. It also purchased the semantic search startup Powerset for around $100 million back in the end of June.

Greenfield wasn’t exactly high on the list of Microsoft potential purchases. Okay, it wasn’t on there at all.

The cash tender offer will give shareholders $17.50-a-share. The deal should close in the fourth quarter of this year.

If this doesn’t help Microsoft gain search and online influence in Europe, there’s always Seinfeld.


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