At first blush it’s easy to write off Microsoft’s $6.2 billion goodwill impairment charge, announced after the market’s close Monday, as an asterisk to its history that will have little significance to the company and its investors.
While big enough to wipe out a quarter’s earnings, investors will likely shrug it off because it’ll merely be viewed as a one-time non-cash “accounting” event at a company with $58 billion in cash on hand, operating cash flow of $29 billion and a stock market value of $257 billion.
But the bigger issue is that it reflects a wave of overpaying during the merger frenzy of merger frenzies, when takeover activity in the U.S. peaked at an aggregate $1.2 trillion — as premium upon premium were paid for company after company. Mergers, in turn, helped drive the markets to new highs, fueling investment psychology in the process — just before the market collapsed.
In Microsoft’s case, the takeover in question was for aQuantive, which supposedly would catapult the company into the world of online ad sales. The cost was $6.3 billion, $100 million more than the impairment — suggesting almost the entire deal was a bust .Page 1 of 4 | Next Page